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Biodiversity Day actions to save snails

Biodiversity Day actions to save Powelliphanta snails from extinction

Save Happy Valley Coalition Monday 22nd May 2006

The Save Happy Valley Coalition will today take action across the country to mark International Day for Biodiversity, and launch a petition to demand that Powelliphanta "augustus," an endangered snail species, be protected from extinction.

"New Zealand is a signatory to the International Convention on Biological Diversity, and today should be a chance to celebrate our past successes at bringing species back from the brink of extinction. Instead, a month ago, our Government deliberately and cold-heartedly signed off on our first state-sponsored species extinction. It's an international embarrassment," said Frances Mountier, Save Happy Valley Coalition spokesperson.

"Save Happy Valley, along with Greens groups, are taking action, doing street theatre, running stalls and launching a petition, to highlight the plight of this species, and to give the public an opportunity to voice their opposition to such annihilation," said Ms Mountier.

In Wellington, from noon, a giant snail will walk through Cuba Mall looking for a new home, and garnering support for the cause along the way.

In Nelson, the Greens are running a public awareness stall and launching the petition for the top of the south.

In Christchurch, from 12-1, there will be a demonstration, and leafleting outside Solid Energy's headquarters. This will take place outside of 2 Show Place, off Whiteleigh Ave, Addington.

In Dunedin, at noon, unsuspecting Powelliphanta snails will be hunted down in the Octagon by Soiled Energy officials on stilts - with slimy consequences. Metiria Turei, Green MP and Conservation spokesperson, will narrate the street theatre.

"The Minister of Conservation failed diversity when he granted the permit to allow Solid Energy to mine 94% of the last remaining 5ha of habitat of Powelliphanta 'Augustus'," said Ms Mountier.

"This species must be protected, and Biodiversity Day is a highly appropriate day to highlight the very real issue of extinction. Our Coalition, and others around the country, are working to save this species and the nearby Happy Valley - and we are up against a massive, unsustainable, profit-driven corporation – because, at times like these, it is left up to people to say no to such extensive environmental desecration," said Ms Mountier.


Notes:

The Save Happy Valley Coalition is a collection of groups and individuals from around Aotearoa committed to stopping Solid Energy's proposed open cast coal mine in Happy Valley (Upper Waimangaroa Valley) on the West Coast. They are also deeply concerned about the fate of all endangered species under threat from Solid Energy – such as the Powelliphanta snail at the nearby Mt Augustus.

The coalition is made up of West Coast locals, students, workers and the general public. The group has a track record of creative protests, occupations and lock-ons as well as producing a variety of informative media. More information about the coalition and its history can be found at http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/aboutus.htm

Save Happy Valley have been occupying Happy Valley (which is 4km east of Mt Augustus) since 28th January 2006.

The main part of the population of Powelliphanta "Augustus" lives on 3-4 hectares of land, more than 94% of which is within the Stockton Mining Licence. Solid Energy was forced by High Court action brought by Forest and Bird in December to apply to the Ministers of Conservation and Energy for permits to move these snails before they mine their habitat. The remaining 6% is Department of Conservation land. However, Solid Energy has permits to drop 270 tonnes of rockfall at a time on this area.

DNA studies by Massey University have confirmed that Powelliphanta 'Augustus' is a separate species which diverged from its closest relative more than 1.5 million years ago.

The Minister of Conservation permitted Solid Energy to mine 94% of the entire remaining habitat on Wednesday 12th April. While Chris Carter has imposed some conditions on the relocation of the snails, these are insufficient to save the species from extinction. For example, the area that the snails are to be relocated to will only hold 85 individuals, far short of the minimum viable population of 250.

ENDS

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