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No suitable trade for flooding rare valley habitat

No 'suitable trade' for flooding rare valley habitat

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says those calling for a "suitable trade" of land to facilitate a West Coast hydro scheme are promoting an environmental fallacy.

A campaign was launched last night to lobby the Government to reconsider its rejection of the Dobson dam and accept Mt Buckley as "a trade of conservation values" for valleys that would be flooded by the proposal.

"This is not a 'trade' at all, it is a fixation with property rights," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party's Conservation and Energy Spokesperson.

"Swapping Dobson for Buckley would only change what it says on the ownership papers, it would not create any new habitat for the diverse range of life that would be wiped out by flooding or otherwise increase the sum total of the region's ecological value.

"The Dobson dam would flood three valleys. National and Act MPs are saying it's all gorse, but in fact only one of the valleys has such scrub, most of the area is a combination of vigorous and healthy remnant and young kahikatea, matai and rimu forest, including the Card Creek Ecological Area. Such wide valley floor ecosystems are now very rare in North Westland thanks to farming and other development.

"By comparison the Mt Buckley land is steep hill beech forest, which has its own value but is not the same as a valley floor podocarp forest.

"The special status that Card Creek has under the Conservation Act can only be revoked if it no longer has the conservation value for which it was originally protected. Nothing has changed in the valley since that declaration was made in 1983, so such a move would require unilateral ministerial action, which would be a worrying precedent for the rule of environmental law in this country.

"The Greens have consistently laid out the solutions to the energy issues facing New Zealand - greater efficiency and more dispersed generation. If every building on the West Coast was properly insulated and had a solar water heater and an efficient wood stove the amount of electricity the region uses would drop dramatically.

"When are we going to stop obsessing over the supply side of the energy equation and start addressing the demand questions?" said Ms Fitzsimons.

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