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Giant snail chains itself to DOC doors

Giant snail chains itself to DOC doors

PRESS RELEASE – for immediate use

14th September 2006

Save Happy Valley Coalition

A giant Powelliphanta "Augustus" snail, with a Save Happy Valley Coalition member inside, locked itself to the Department of Conservation West Coast conservancy office in Sewell St, Hokitika, at 10.20am this morning, blocking the entrance.

Snaily, AKA Graham Jury, 22, an ecology student from Christchurch, said "I've chained myself to this door in solidarity with more than 400 other Augustus snails here that are locked inside ice cream containers in the fridge."

"Scientific advice from the Department of Conservation, the Royal Society of New Zealand, and an independent overseas expert all indicates that the outlook for the snails in captivity is rather grim."

Photos will be available from 11.30am and Jury is immediately available for comment from within the 1m diameter snail suit.

Other coalition members delivered their demands to West Coast conservator Mike Slater, including a return of all Augustus snails to their habitat, and an end to state-sanctioned species extinction. Also included was a list of the Department's failures in protecting the snails:

*** Keeping almost the entire population of a critically-endangered species in substandard conditions, before a captivity protocol has been developed, and without a captive rearing facility in sight

*** Allowing Solid Energy to begin work under the Wildlife Permit without first developing the required protocols

*** Granting a high impact concession, without public notification, to drop large quantities of rocks on the only Augustus habitat that will not be mined

*** Refusing to prosecute Solid Energy's security firm for illegal filming and security activity on DoC land in December 2005, despite admitting there is a prima facie case

*** Repeatedly refusing to release basic information about the snails to conservationists, or releasing information only after extensive delays and intervention from the ombudsman

*** Refusing to prosecute Solid Energy for the 'accidental' destruction of a substantial proportion of snail habitat in April 2005

*** Removing Mt Augustus and Happy Valley from its proposed recommended area for protection, in 1998, under pressure from Solid Energy

"The latest outrage is an application from Solid Energy to hunt, kill and possess Great Spotted Kiwi and another species of snail within the Stockton Mine", said Coalition spokesperson Frances Mountier. "By now, in secret and without public consultation, DoC have most likely granted this permit to kill our national icon."

"These are both absolutely protected species, and they should be just that – protected!"

ENDS

Notes
1. On July 19th, Mike Slater, the West Coast Conservator, signed off for Solid Energy to begin capturing and transferring snails to captivity in Hokitika, despite the majority of the protocols not being in place. For example, the captive breading protocol was not in place. This is clearly in contravention of the Wildlife Permit.

2. The Wildlife Permit granted by the Minister of Conservation in April 2006 which permits Solid Energy to 'Hunt Kill and Possess' Powelliphanta "Augustus" is currently in question in the High Court, and Solid Energy's right to mine without appropriate resource consent is under question in the Environment Court.

3. The protocols developed under the Wildlife Permit only allowed Solid Energy to search 5% of the habitat in the winter months – yet they have collected approx 415 snails out of a total population of 500.

4. The Permit covers 94% of the snails' habitat. The remaining 6% is on DOC land – but that is to be subjected to rockfall events of up to 270 tonnes per event.

5. If DoC continues to facilitate Solid Energy removing the snails, the species will soon be on the fast-track to extinction. At this stage, it is still reversible, for the snails can be returned to their habitat. If the habitat is mined or the snails are 'translocated' then that will be irreversible.

6. On 2nd August, Solid Energy applied for Wildlife Permits to 'Hunt, Kill and Possess' great spotted kiwi and Powelliphanta patrickensis elsewhere in the Stockton Coal Mining Licence.

7. 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 work to raise awareness on climate change in New Zealand. 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

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