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DOC May Ban Public From Conservation Land

DOC May Ban Public From Conservation Land

The general public may be banned from a section of public conservation land, and environmentalists fear they will be arrested for attempting to save a critically-endangered species from extinction.

The Department of Conservation is considering a request from State Owned coal mining company Solid Energy to close conservation land below the Mt Augustus skyline ridge, near Westport. The company plans to remove the iconic ridgeline including Mt Augustus, the only home of an absolutely protected species of rare carnivorous land snail, Powelliphanta augustus.

"It's a very serious matter to exclude the public from public land. And in this case it removes any opportunity for official public scrutiny of Solid Energy's behaviour, which is essential given their atrocious record of environmental 'mistakes'. We're extremely worried that their next 'mistake' will cause the extinction of Powelliphanta augustus," said spokesperson Frances Mountier. "This would be New Zealand's first known state-sponsored species extinction."

The snails live on mining permit land, and Solid Energy wants to move the snails, and their habitat, with heavy machinery.

Solid Energy has received a non-publicly notified concession from the Department of Conservation to allow rockfall on to public conservation land.

"This concession - which was granted with no public input - is the biggest outrage of all. If Solid Energy can't mine without encroaching upon conservation land then they shouldn't be mining at all. This lack of public input coupled with the West Coast Regional Council's determination that there be no requirement for a resource consent to dump this debris is an indictment of local and central government environmental planning laws. Giving a commercial interest permission to drop hundreds of tonnes of rocks on habitat for protected species truly beggars belief."

ENDS

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