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Conservation Week In A Year Of Environmental Peril

30 July 2004
Conservation Week in a year of environmental peril

On the eve of Conservation Week, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says both the conservation estate and New Zealand's wider environment are under unprecedented pressure and concerned Kiwis should mobilise to defend them.

"Conservation needs you as never before," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party's Conservation and Environment Spokesperson.

"New Zealand's environment is under threat in many areas and conservation land, which should be safe from the more extreme depredations of profit-driven development, is not exempt. Proposals such as the Dobson dam and the Pyke River coal mine on the West Coast reveal some decision makers' complete lack of respect for the inviolate status of the conservation estate. Conservation is not just about saving iconic and popular species; it is also about protecting habitats for both their own sake and the planet's tenuous bio-diversity.

"The theme of this year's Conservation Week - Conservation with Communities - is a very valid concept because real change starts at the local level. But while in-the-field community efforts such as planting trees, pulling weeds and cleaning up waterways are important, it is also essential that conservationists recognise that proposed changes to environmental planning systems and specific projects will undermine all their good practical work. People need to rise to these environmental challenges happening at the political level."

Ms Fitzsimons says some of the policy issues requiring people's attention are:

* Newly revealed Ministry of Economic Development hydropower proposals to dam, divert or drain rivers and lakes throughout the country.

* The willingness of both the Labour and National parties to bow to calls from big business to weaken or scrap the RMA and its recognition of local interest.

* Proposals to prevent the Department of Conservation from fulfilling its advocacy role at RMA hearings.

"Conservationists also have to recognise that their positive actions can be undone through their everyday behaviour. For instance, you may spend time planting trees to prevent run off into your local river, but if you are thoughtless in your electricity consumption you may be providing the powers-that-be with the excuse they need to dam that very same river. In turn, it should be recognised that climate change is the biggest single threat to conservation efforts.

"So Conservation Week is an opportunity to reflect on the fact that practical conservation work, political mobilisation on environmental issues and everyday behaviour changes are all needed if we're going to pass on a liveable country and planet to our great grandchildren," said Ms Fitzsimons.


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