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DoC Trigger Happy

27 September 2005 PR 127/05

DoC Trigger Happy

The Department of Conservation (DoC) should spend its time looking after its own land rather than unnecessarily interfering in controlled and permitted burn offs on private land, said Bruce McNab, a National Board Member of Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

His comments follow reports that DoC sent in helicopters to douse a controlled spring burn-off on a farm near Queenstown.

"Fire has been used as a legitimate land management tool for centuries but a trigger-happy Department of Conservation seems to think that the time has come to halt all burning because it is too risky.

"It's time DoC started exercising some sound judgement on the way other people manage their land. By all means give advice and act strongly when that advice is ignored, but do it realistically and respect the knowledge and judgement of private landowners.

"Controlled burn offs produce, cooler, less destructive fires and lightly burned tussock country is more hospitable to repopulation by fire-tolerant native creatures," Mr McNab said.

Worryingly, DOC and local government attitudes have made permitting and carrying out controlled burn offs difficult and legally risky for landowners, he said.

"The irony is that DoC has tens of thousands of hectares of fragile land in its estate, much of which is being allowed to become a perfect medium for deep and destructive burning. This situation will inevitably end in environmental disaster for the fragile land that DoC purports to protect.

"This risk of mass scale wild fire increases as more and more land enters the conservation estate through tenure review.

"While we recognise that DoC has a statutory role when it comes to permitted fires within a certain distance from the conservation estate, this farcical situation is yet another example of DoC abusing its role to assert power over other people's land.

"The most common example is DoC's powers under the Resource Management Act. Federated Farmers has been calling for changes to the RMA to remove DoC's ability to advocate for conservation controls on private land," Mr McNab said.

ENDS

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