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Conservationists need to sort priorities

14 June 2005
HIGH COUNTRY ACCORD
MEDIA RELEASE

Conservationists need to sort priorities
[320 words]

If Forest & Bird and the Federated Mountain Clubs succeed in their quest for a 'Six Pack' of new parks in the South Island high country, empire building will have triumphed over commonsense conservation, says the High Country Accord.

“All over the country native bird populations are at risk because of a lack of funds for pest control on Department of Conservation estate. Yet two of the country’s main conservation lobby groups want DoC to get yet more land,” says Accord co-chair Ben Todhunter.

“Forest & Bird needs to sort its priorities. Limited funds should go where the country gets the biggest bang for its conservation bucks.

“They should ask the real conservationists – the ones doing the hard graft as volunteers in places like Mt Bruce, Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, the Taiko reserve on the Chatham Islands and Maungatautari mountain – where the money should be going.

“Should it be going to expand the DoC empire in the high country, or to save the species and environments which are most at risk?”

Mr Todhunter says a lot of land in the high country has high conservation values, thanks to skilled land management practices by farmers. Indeed, he says judicious grazing of tussock country invariably improves the diversity of native plant species, and helps control weeds.

“Of all the land of conservation value in New Zealand, the high country is at least risk, and is already widely represented in the DOC estate.

“Yet the government has just allocated $45 million for high country land purchases through tenure review. The five property purchases advocated in these proposals are on top of that.

“This sum would fund a lot of predator proof fences and bait stations, and restore many hectares of habitat in areas where native wildlife is truly at risk.”

Mr Todhunter says most high country farmers are willing to enter into legally-binding management covenants for areas of their farms which need special protection.

[ends]

Trevor Walton
for High Country Accord communications

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