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Forest And Bird Is Main Obstacle To Compensation



It is extremely disappointing to all those who want to save Southland native forests to have Forest and Bird opposing any compensation deal with the Maori landowners, the Ecologic Foundation said today.

Ecologic executive director Guy Salmon was responding to today’s statement by the Forest and Bird Society, which says that the Resource Management Act, not compensation, should be used to stop clearance of native forest in Southland.

“The only Maori forest that has ever been saved in Southland was saved because of negotiations which respected the owners’ legal property rights.

“Forest and Bird has been talking about using the Resource Management Act for years without success, while vast areas of forest are being lost.

“So in practical terms, unless the Government does the same sort of compensation deal it did with the West Coast, and does it soon, the ancient, virgin silver beech forests of Southland are doomed to destruction.

“Forest and Bird’s sudden faith in the Resource Management Act looks pretty hypocritical anyway, given that the Society lobbied to close down the Resource Management Act hearings on the West Coast forests.

“And why does Forest and Bird support a compensation deal for West Coasters while opposing it for Maori forest owners?

“Forest and Bird’s opposition to compensation for Maoris is the main reason that there is nothing in the Budget that can save these forests.”

Mr Salmon said he had much sympathy with the view that landowners should not have property rights that entitle them to destroy natural resources, but that was the legal position. Many farmers and forestry companies, not just Maori, took advantage of it.

“I would like to see the Government act to put all property rights on a sustainable basis, but if it was to do that, it should do so across the board, and provide financial assistance across the board as well, to help landowners comply with the new requirements.

“What the Government cannot do, given the Treaty and our constitutional traditions, is to just confiscate the rights of a minority group like Southland Maori landowners.”

Mr Salmon said that Forest and Bird’s claim that the Maori lands were a low priority for the expenditure of conservation funds was outrageous.

“The forests in question include virgin silver beech forests adjoining the Fiordland National Park, rare matai forests in the Hokonui Ranges, and rimu forests which form the outstanding scenic backdrop to much of Otago’s Catlins Coast.

“It is breath-taking to hear Forest and Bird describe these as “low priority” and I wonder what they are going to sell down the drain next?”

For further information please contact Guy Salmon tel 025 201 3033

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