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Labour slaps slick Nick's sticky fingers

Labour
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Nick Smith should keep his sticky fingers out of the Nature Heritage Fund till, says Labour conservation spokesperson Jill Pettis.

Mrs Pettis says the Fund should not be plundered at the minister's whim to secure forest for a Stewart Island National Park.

"A Stewart Island National Park is a great idea but the Government should not cut corners and jeopardise other conservation programmes to get it. Looting the Forest Heritage Fund without consulting its guardians and without considering its purpose would be robbing Peter to pay Paul."

The Nature Heritage Fund was set up by Labour in 1990 (as the Forest Heritage Fund) to pay for covenants protecting native forest on private land. National has already cut its budget from the original $6.75 million. If Dr Smith takes another $2 million for the Stewart Island land the Fund will be gutted, says Mrs Pettis.

"The Fund is a tremendous success but it seems Dr Smith is ready to loot it without consulting the expert committee that is there to advise him. Apparently he's also happy to take the money without considering the criteria the committee normally applies."

The Stewart Island land around the Lords River is South Island Landless Natives Act (SILNA) territory. The suggested cost of the protection covenant is $3000 a hectare, when the average cost of Fund covenants to date is about $250 a hectare.

"This has only come up because Jenny Shipley visited Stewart Island and thought a national park would be a useful election-year promise. It seems she's happy to scotch other vital conservation work for the sake of the National Party."

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