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Labour tackles biodiversity crisis

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"Labour's 1999 conservation policy tackles New Zealand's biodiversity crisis by reinforcing the Department of Conservation's leading role in rescuing and protecting native species, says Labour's conservation spokesperson Jill Pettis.

"The department's work on threatened species programmes, habitat protection, weed and pest control and conservation advocacy will be Labour's priority for increased funding," Mrs Pettis says of the policy released today.

"Labour will complete and implement a national strategy on biodiversity to protect the natural habitats that indigenous species need to survive. We will improve the conservation of wetland and fresh water ecosystems and establish a network of high country tussock land parks and reserves. We will also support non-government initiatives like Forest & Bird's proposed kiwi protection zones."

Mrs Pettis says Labour will develop the Protected Natural Areas programme, which identifies and protects unique regional ecosystems. It will also increase funding for Nga Whenua Rahui, which promotes conservation areas on Mäori land, and develop a national policy on Mäori customary use of native plants and animals.

"Historic heritage protection will also get increased attention under Labour. We will develop a national strategy for identifying heritage places and a publicly available database.

"To improve free public access to New Zealand's waterways and coastline Labour will develop a strategy for extending the Queen's Chain. To ensure access to the back country we will undertake an urgent review of the condition of back country huts and tracks, with a view to restoring them.

"Marine conservation efforts will be stepped up under Labour. In consultation with the public, we will aim to create marine reserves covering 10% of the coastline by 2010. We will establish marine reserves around the Sub-Antarctic islands and investigate the potential for a network of deep sea reserves from 10km to 320km offshore. Labour also plans to work closely with the fishing industry to reduce by-catch of marine mammals, sea birds and non-target fish species."

Internationally, Labour will continue pressing for an end to "scientific" whaling and for the designation of Antarctica as a World Park.

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