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National declares war on 'clean green' NZ

National declares war on 'clean green' NZ

National is proposing a radical assault on New Zealand's environment and the people who defend it, Forest and Bird is warning.

"The party is proposing sweeping changes to the Resource Management Act and the Conservation Act which will have huge implications for all who care about the environment and enjoy the outdoors," Forest and Bird's Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell said.

"Early in the party's conference, leader, Don Brash, claimed that National is a political party for people who care about the environment, yet later in the conference his environment spokesperson Nick Smith announced that, if elected, a National Government would declare open season on New Zealand's environment and its advocates.

We hope they will rethink these anti-conservation policies before the next election," he said. "Proposals to water down environmental bottom lines, open up conservation lands for development and shut out community groups from local decision-making could mark the return to a "development at all costs" agenda that dominated the late 1970s and early 1980s under Sir Robert Muldoon," he said. "These proposals will be a massive environmental subsidy for dirty businesses," he said.

"New Zealand's reputation for being clean and green is essential for our largest industries, tourism and agriculture. To attack the laws that aim to maintain New Zealand's 'clean and green' advantage in a highly competitive world is economic stupidity," he said. "The proposal to allow councils to award costs against local submitters is an assault on people that are willing to defend our quality of life and the quality of our environment on behalf of their communities and all New Zealanders," he said. "Poor environmental management by local authorities has already made most lowland streams and rivers so polluted that Medical Officers of Health say people shouldn't swim in them. National's proposals will just make it worse," said Kevin Hackwell.

"National would let developers hide the impacts of proposed developments by giving them the ability to submit an inadequate application and then a right to refuse to provide further information when requested. As a minimum, people wanting to carry out environmentally damaging activities should be required to disclose the effects of their proposal," he said.

"The proposed changes to the Conservation Act are an invitation to plunder New Zealand's parks and reserves," he said. "The Conservation Act already allows for the responsible use of conservation land. People can apply for concessions to carry out a range of activities. Currently people run tourism operations and graze cattle on conservation land. Even mining is allowed on some conservation land. National's proposals would lower the bar so activities could destroy the values that make these areas so precious," he said. "National's concept of 'net conservation benefit' is just a nonsense. It means trading in the environment - swapping a natural area that has been protected for a natural area that has not - there's no net benefit in that, just further loss," he said.

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