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Living places initiative a good step

Tuesday April 29 2014 – Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Living places initiative a good step

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird is welcoming aspects of a new Green Party policy of prioritising the preservation of native species on private land.

The initiative, called the “Conservation In our Backyard Policy,” was launched this morning.

“There is a lot in this that would be a positive step for nature. But we would like it to go further in several respects,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“We’re talking about what makes New Zealand such a special place - our unique plants, animals and landscapes. Much of our most threatened biodiversity is on private rather than public land.

“The premise that we can’t just rely on public conservation land to provide the habitat for our native species is sound – and the reason why Forest & Bird has for several years had a strategic priority of restoring ecosystems all over New Zealand,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“We agree that the National Policy Statement on biodiversity – which has been languishing in a bureaucratic backwater for a decade – is a priority. During this time New Zealand has continued to lose important native habitat, and landowners and community groups have wasted resources, time and effort arguing these issues at the local level when a single national policy statement would have provided both consistency and certainty for everyone.

“We would also welcome an increase in the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund, which funds community organisations like ours to take legal cases to protect the environment,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“But the fund should be extended to assist in dealings with boards of inquiry, like those around the Auckland Unitary Plan, and the Ruataniwha dam in Hawke’s Bay.

“Likewise, we welcome the proposed extension of call-in powers to either the Environment Court or a Board of Inquiry for decisions that impact on nationally significant indigenous biodiversity,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“But we are disappointed the policy doesn’t cover giving boards of inquiry more time to carry out their work when making decisions on nationally significant projects. These are developments that have the greatest environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts and we should therefore take the care and time to get good decisions rather than just fast decisions.

“The Ruataniwha Board of Inquiry had just over four months, including Christmas and New Year, to hear submissions and then write its report. Given the scale and potential impacts of that project, that was a ridiculously tight timeframe,” Kevin Hackwell says.

ENDS

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