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Save Fiordland Welcomes Decision From Minister

Save Fiordland Welcomes Decision From Minister

Today the Minister of Conservation Dr Nick Smith has issued a media statement saying he will take responsibility for determining whether the proposals for a tunnel through Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks and for a monorail through the Snowdon Forest area will go ahead.

Both private developments would cut through public conservation land. These wilderness areas, and the endemic species within them, have such outstanding natural values and are of such international significance that they have World Heritage status.

Save Fiordland, which is campaigning against these proposals, has welcomed the announcement that such an important decision will be made at the top. Chair of Save Fiordland, Daphne Taylor said today: "We hope that the decision reflects his understanding of how significant that World Heritage status is on every level - including the pride and sense of guardianship we New Zealanders have in our environmental heritage, the unique kiwi lifestyle that goes with working and playing within these wilderness areas, our obligations to future generations and the international community and also the economic benefits the World Heritage status bestows on our 100% pure branding, the tourism industry in particular."

Save Fiordland calls on the Minister to ensure his decisions are made within the law and intent of numerous conservation management documents that guard carefully against developments of these kinds in New Zealand's specially protected areas including:

Conservation Act 1987
National Parks Act 1980
Fiordland National Park Management Plan 2007
Mt Aspiring National Park Management Plan 2011
Conservation Management Strategy for Mainland Southland and West Otago
Ngai Tahu Deed of Settlement.

This is in addition to the obligations the New Zealand government has as host nation to “take appropriate legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary for the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and rehabilitation of this heritage” (World Heritage Convention, 1972), this heritage being that of Te Wahipounamu - the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.

Chair of Save Fiordland, Daphne Taylor, said today: "Now the consultation process is over we are glad the new MInister is standing up to his responsibilities as the elected politician in charge of the Department of Conservation, and we urge him firstly to take heed of the laws and management documents protecting our conservation land and forbidding such projects, and secondly to ensure he has a full understanding of these documents and the outpouring of dismay by people throughout New Zealand and the world, expressed in responses to the consultation and throughout the public campaigning."

When appointed Minister of Conservation in January this year, Dr Nick Smith said that he felt very strongly about 'the conservation estate', 'the very special responsibility for New Zealand around those species that only exist in NZ' and about 'that great kiwi lifestyle that New Zealand is famous for' and 'ensuring all of that is available for future generations'.

While welcoming that public commitment and the MInister's decision to take responsibility for the decisions, Save Fiordland is concerned that the Minister has failed to mention in his media statement any intention to meet with Save Fiordland or other campaigners against these proposals despite Save Fiordland having proffered him an invitation, upon his appointment last month.

"We feel it is highly appropriate that he does meet with us. His stated intention is to take advice from the Department of Conservation, the New Zealand Conservation Authority, and also to meet with the applicants for each project. If the Minister does not meet with us he will not have felt, first hand, the strength and breadth of opposition against these totally inappropriate proposals on our, the New Zealand public's, conservation land," said Taylor. "We want to be proud of, not fearful for, our world heritage."

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