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DOC Management Not To Blame

28 March 2001

DOC Management Not To Blame

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society today dismissed Act Party conservation spokesperson Gerry Eckhoff's comments that DOC is mismanaging the high country and endangering tussock grasslands.

Sue Maturin, the Society's Southern Conservation Officer said "It is very sad to see Mr Eckhoff trying to turn the Arthur's Pass fire tragedy into another round of conservation and DOC bashing."

"DOC staff, volunteer fire fighters and high country runholders have put in a tremendous effort to bring this fire under control, and they should be congratulated, not accused of managing to cause fires." she said.

"In these tinder dry conditions, farmland, conservation land, even forest can burn, as last year's Marlborough fires showed."

"Wither Hills in Marlborough has been grazed and burnt on a regular basis for the last 140 years and the land where the Roxburgh fires started was heavily grazed short pasture. Grazing and burning does not provide protection from fire." Sue Maturin said.

" Mr Eckhoff seems to be advocating a scorched earth regime, but he needs to remember that most of the out of control fires have escaped from supposedly "controlled" burnoffs lit by high country runholders."

"To reduce fuel loads in tussock grasslands to the extent where fires would not ever be a threat, would require burning at such a frequency, that the tussock grassland ecosystem would be destroyed."

"Burnoffs are extremely damaging to tussock grassland ecosystems, and are no longer acceptable as a routine farm management tool." Sue Maturin said.

"Mr Eckhoff's preaching for a return to matchbox farming will do nothing to reduce fires or achieve sustainability in the high country."

ENDS

For further information contact:

Sue Maturin ~ Phone 03 477-9677 (work), 03 4876-125 (home) or 025 222- 5092.

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