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Farmer bulldozes through RMA and native forest

4 November 2008

Farmer bulldozes through RMA and native forest

In response to Federated Farmers demand to weaken the Resource Management Act, the Green Party has released leaked information showing the RMA is already so weak a council was able to rubber stamp the secret clearance of 100 year old native bush for dairying in south Taranaki.

The leaked documents show the South Taranaki District Council gave non-notified consent to clear 10 hectares of native forest and wetlands for dairying - despite the opposition of council officers.

"The Feds and National are calling for the RMA to be watered down but it is already so weak it allowed this dairy farmer to clear 10 hectares of high value forest and wetland. This is in a region that has only 1 percent of its native vegetation left," Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman says.

"The South Taranaki District Council is engaging in environmental vandalism by allowing the destruction of this remnant forest in a part of the country that has already suffered massive ecological destruction.

"The RMA already has so many holes in it that you can literally drive a bulldozer through it and clear as much native bush as you like. But it seems that clearing 99 percent of the native bush is not enough for the Federated Farmers and National, they want to finish the job.

"Most farmers would be appalled by this environmental vandalism and many farmers have put aside areas of native forest to protect, something that Federated Farmers have supported through the QE2 Trust" Dr Norman says.

"Incredibly, the farmers in this case were told that they needed a resource consent but started clearing anyway. Instead of prosecuting them for clearing native bush without consent, the Council rewarded them by letting them clear the remaining forest that they hadn't yet managed to bulldoze.

"The public was never told about this ecological vandalism because, like 95 percent of resource consents, it was non-notified and was done in secret by the Council and the dairy farmers.

"The Green Party believes the RMA needs to be strengthened to protect our remaining lowland forests. We believe that local council processes need to be made transparent so that the public knows what ecological destruction Council is planning to rubber stamp."

Follow link to leaked documents and pictures of the forest: http://www.greens.org.nz/node/20303

Notes

The ecological assessment conducted on this forest block showed:

* Trees in this forest are between 80 and 120 years old.

* It includes tawa, rewarewa, miro, pukatea and rimu - lowland Taranaki forest.

* There is less than 2 percent of pukatea swamp left nationally.

* There were 78 indigenous plant species in the forest.

* The Taranaki lowland forests are not represented in Egmont National Park due to the higher altitude of the Park.

* The costs of preparing this ecological assessment were borne by the ratepayers.


ENDS

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