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National’s Bluegreen Vision a step forward

6 October 2006 - Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

National’s Bluegreen Vision a step forward on conservation – but still a long way to go

National’s Bluegreen Vision is a step forward in recognising the importance of environmental protection, but the party still has a long way to go, Forest & Bird says.

Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says he welcomes the discussion document’s goal of solving all New Zealand’s environmental problems within a generation, but has reservations about National’s policy prescription to reach that target.

“We congratulate them on their vision of resolving environmental problems within a generation, and recognising that clearly-stated policy milestones, a bipartisan approach and broad national consensus are vital, but we believe National still has some way to go in working out how to achieve that vision.”

It was encouraging to see that National has made considerable progress over the past year in recognising the importance of environmental protection, but its commitment still fell short of mainstream New Zealanders’ commitment to conservation, Kevin Hackwell says.

“It is great to see the extent to which National has realised that conservation and the environment are crucial issues and cannot be ignored – both electorally and in terms of the future of our country. However it still has a set of policies that does not make a strong enough commitment to retaining a central role for government in conservation.”

Forest & Bird believes that the Department of Conservation (DOC) must continue to have a strong role in being the Government’s advocate for environmental protection and manager of much of New Zealand’s unique natural heritage, and is concerned that National’s Bluegreen Vision does not adequately support DOC’s ability to carry out these important roles on behalf of New Zealanders.

“While Forest & Bird recognises the valuable role of business and communities in supporting conservation efforts, it must not be at the expense of the Government maintaining its leading role in the conservation partnership,” Kevin Hackwell says.

Some moves – such as National’s recognition of the “risk” of climate change, and funding to boost biosecurity, reduce erosion and encourage reforestation – are encouraging. However other aspects of the discussion document, such as its strong emphasis on DOC “enhancing its flow of revenues” are of concern, because they do not recognise the enormous contribution DOC’s management of the conservation estate makes to New Zealand’s economy.

“The document reflects a tendency to view conservation and natural values as commodities that are to be traded. New Zealand’s natural heritage is a taonga and is not something that New Zealanders want to see traded away. We wouldn’t sell a kakapo to the highest international bidder, so why would we sell our forests, or our clean air and water?”

“We see Bluegreen Vision as a good starting point for discussion, and we welcome the opportunity to debate these issues, but we believe there is still much room for improvement.”

ENDS

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