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Bare Pass For National's Environmental Policies

July 2, 2002 - Wellington

National's environment and conservation policy released today rates a bare pass, the Forest and Bird Protection Society says.

"The policy has some useful initiatives but also has major gaps. It fails to tackle key environmental issues such as climate change or the role of the Resource Management Act, which National has sought to weaken" "The bipartisan support for the Government's Biodiversity Strategy and National's commitment to establish more mainland habitat islands is applauded as are the proposals for a national environmental standard for landfills and a commitment to a Zero Waste Strategy."

"National's promise of additional funding assistance for private landholders to improve their land management, prevent erosion and protect significant natural areas is welcome. There are, however, several fish-hooks in the proposed $500 million Sustainability and Eco-Restoration Fund.

"Forest and Bird questions how realistic it is to sell off the Landcorp Farms to create the Fund when these farms have been held for Treaty settlements. Without the farms in the Crown land bank there is likely to be additional pressure to use conservation lands in Treaty settlement negotiations.

"Landcorp farms such as those on the West Coast contain significant wetlands, shrublands and areas of conservation value. These would need to be legally protected before any farms are sold.

"On the irrigation issue, in areas such as Canterbury the Fund risks encouraging further environmentally destructive Think Big style irrigation projects such as Central Plains Water by providing money for the capital costs of such schemes. There are few examples, if any, where irrigation schemes have provided a net environmental benefit, a key part of National's policy. The Opuha Dam, for example, which received significant Government funding has not delivered great environmental benefits.

"The policy's effort to highlight the health of streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater is very welcome. Forest and Bird believes that clear national standards and a national policy statement on freshwater under the Resource Management Act are urgently needed, but National's policy does not propose these.

"A Royal Commission on water management may have some merit if it reviews the performance of management agencies, including the Ministry for the Environment and regional councils. Given that the overall condition of many of New Zealand's waterways has got worse over the past 10 years, the performance of these agencies needs to be looked at.

"National's commitment to establishing new marine reserves is appreciated given the disappointing lack of progress under the Labour/Alliance government and its failure to change the Ministry of Fisheries' obstructive approach to marine reserves. "National needs to explain how it will fix the Ministry of Fisheries.

Forest and Bird challenges National to clarify its position over 132,000 ha of new conservation lands formerly managed by Timberlands West Coast.

"National has not said whether it would seek to restart beech and rimu logging on public lands on the West Coast by undoing the legal protection which these forests now enjoy. The conservation policy would be strengthened by National supporting the continued protection of former Timberlands' forests."

"Several of the proposed policies suggested by National would wind back effective protection for conservation lands."

"DoC's concessions management system certainly needs a major overhaul to ensure stronger, not weaker, controls on inappropriate tourism development, more monitoring of concessions and more public involvement. Processing concessions faster and introducing the net conservation benefit test, as National proposes, risks weakening the already inadequate controls on tourism, grazing and other commercial use of protected lands."

"On the issue of hunting, the influence of recreational and safari hunters has already compromised the culling and control of Himalayan thar in the central Southern Alps and undermined effective deer control in other parts of the country. Allowing hunters more influence as National proposes risks increased damage to New Zealand's native forests and the mountain shrublands of the Southern Alps.


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