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ORNZ blasts DOC bullying

20 September 2004

ORNZ blasts DOC bullying

The Outdoor Recreation Party of New Zealand, which is affiliated to the United Future party, has blasted the Department of Conservation for shutting off access to public land in North Otago.

ORNZ spokesman, Phil Hoare, says DOC recently bought Birchwood Station, a 23,783ha South Island high country sheep station, situated in North Otago’s Ahuriri Valley) at a cost of $10 million from the public purse, under the guise of protecting public access to the high country.

“The Department of Conservation has once again managed to alienate itself from the local rural community and general public.

“After taking possession of the property, they immediately created turmoil within the local community and a fair percentage of the public who regularly visit the valley, by closing off road access to this spectacularly scenic alpine area.

“The Department, in its wisdom, has erected a fence line and locked gate to prevent vehicles from accessing the upper reaches of the Valley, citing protection of fragile eco-systems from damage created by four wheel drives etc as their reason for closing this popular recreational area to all but a few mountain bikers and trampers.

“Until DOC closed the access, the area had been the play ground for families, trampers, hunters and other outdoor recreational enthusiasts for generations.”

Mr Hoare says “The Minister of Conservation, Chris Carter, has stated that by DOC purchasing these valuable high country properties, the public will have open access to the high country. It wouldn’t seem to so in this case.”

He says that DOC’s heavy-handed approach to closing off access and forced implementation of other projects such as marine reserves, without proper consultation and against the public’s wishes, are simply bullying tactics applied by a few despots in the DOC hierarchy.

“They pay lip service to their perceived process of public consultation on integrated approaches on these issues, but never actually deliver the goods, even when there is substantial evidence from public submissions clearly indicating a thumbs down for some of these projects. This type of bullying tactics by DOC form an unhealthy trend that is becoming all too familiar with those who are audacious enough to stand up and oppose them.

“ORNZ believes that it is time the DOC hierarchy understood that they have no right of ownership to the public lands, their so-called “conservation estate”; this land is owned and paid for by the tax paying public of this New Zealand, and that DOC are simply paid employees of the government.

“To put it bluntly,” Mr Hoare says, “it is time that DOC realised they are only the caretakers of the public estate.”


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