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United conservation plans driven by DOC-hatred

22 March 2005

United conservation plans driven by DOC-hatred

United seems to be driven by an irrational and deep hatred of conservation and DOC, Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

“United Future’s disdain for the idea of conservation seems to have blinded it to what the Conservation Department actually does,” Ms Fitzsimons said. “Most of the policies it has announced today would be ineffectual, counterproductive, and a big waste of time and money.”

Ms Fitzsimons said United's proposal to “restructure DOC into two, semi-autonomous parts”, announced as part of its conservation policy, was meaningless.

“The DOC budget and nearly all DOC staff are already divided into two parts – conservation and recreation. Parliament allocates money for species conservation or for hut-building and DOC is not free to use one for the other. Specialist staff are already allocated to management of recreation or scientific study of rare species. So, in this sense, the United policy is meaningless.

“However, it would be hugely wasteful to take this further and create semi-autonomous units for conservation and recreation. This would mean having staff from the conservation unit hiking days into the bush to check on wildlife, and then different staff from the recreation unit hiking the same route the next day to check on the condition of huts.

“DOC combines both functions because there are major efficiencies and economies to be gained from having people keep an eye out for both functions. Trampers, bird watchers and hunters all use DOC huts and tracks. All of them enjoy their recreation because the natural environment has been conserved.”

Ms Fitzsimons said United rhetoric about DOC excluding New Zealanders from the conservation estate was misplaced.

“Trampers have access to the whole conservation estate and millions of dollars are spent providing for them. DOC does exclude some things, but in every case this exclusion is justified.

“For example, it excludes four wheel drives from certain places where they would damage species, it excludes deer from those places where they are causing ecological damage, and it excludes guns and dogs from some areas for the same reason. It does this on behalf of all New Zealanders and future generations.”

Ms Fitzsimons said that trout and salmon fishers, along with rafters and kayakers, would be very disturbed by United’s proposal to make hydro development “a matter of national interest” that could override the conservation and recreational values of rivers.

“There’s never been a hydro proposal that United has opposed. They supported Project Aqua, the canalisation of the Arnold River and the Wairau scheme. This United policy will accelerate the loss of our wild rivers.”

ENDS

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