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Protect tuatara at Stephens Island, hearing urged

27 March 2006 - Nelson

Protect tuatara at Stephens Island, hearing urged

The best way to protect tuatara and other threatened species at Stephens Island is for the area to remain a restricted access nature reserve, rather than opening it to tourists, Forest & Bird urged today in its submission to a DOC hearing.

“Stephens Island is home to 90% of the world population of tuatara and as such should be afforded the highest level of protection with no tourist access allowed,” said Forest & Bird Field Officer Debs Martin.

“There are some areas that are just too important to be opened up to tourists, especially when tuatara can already be viewed in the open at nature reserves at Tiritiri Matangi Island near Auckland and Matiu/Somes Island and Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington.”

“The tuatara is the sole living representatives of the reptilian Order, Sphenodontia. These unique beak-headed reptiles flourished even before the dinosaurs. They became extinct everywhere in the world except New Zealand some 60 million years ago. Stephens Island has the largest population so their health and wellbeing are critical to ensure the species continues into the future.”

“All tourist visitors to Stephens Island would represent an additional risk of accidental pest animal and plant introduction. Allowing tourists onto the island would also increase the risk of poaching,” she said.

Recreational tourism would be inconsistent with the Nelson/Marlborough Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) which states that nature reserves should be given the highest level of protection and that, “applications for concession will not be approved where the intended use is incompatible with the purpose for which the area is held.”

“Approval of this application may set a precedent for allowing tourist access at other island nature reserves of similar status, such as Rangatira in the Chatham Islands. Opening up our highest status protected areas to tourists implies that nowhere deserves to be protected from the impact of tourism,” she said.


A copy of Forest & Bird’s submission is available on the internet at www.forestandbird.org.nz

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