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Settlement welcome, but other SILNA land still at

"The announcement today that an initial agreement has been reached between Rakiura Maori of Stewart Island and the Crown is a welcome start, but begs the questions, why has the Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith been so impotent in providing protection for other SILNA areas, like the Southland forests?" Deputy leader of the Alliance and leader of Mana Motuhake Sandra Lee said today.

Prior to this agreement the unspoilt forests of Stewart Island has been at risk of logging because the land was provided as economic compensation to South Island Maori at the beginning of the century and was therefore not covered by the Forests Act.

To date successive governments have failed to either protect the forests or offer local Maori an incentive not to log, by supplying adequate compensation.

"Why has the Minister failed to protect the SILNA land in Southland adjacent to National Parks, which has already been devastated by clear-felling?" said Sandra Lee.

"He is acting now to save the forests of Stewart Island before its too late: why did he wait so long to act in Southland where whole areas of native forests on SILNA land have already been destroyed?

"Although there is a moratorium on the logging of all SILNA land at the moment, that moratorium is only voluntary. It isn't enough of a protection, and it isn't an incentive to stop logging long term.

"The quickest and most effective way to protect the forests of Southland is to offer economic incentives to Maori owners immediately, that make it possible to choose not to clear-fell these precious forests.

"Anything else is mere posturing. We've waited ten years to have the issue of SILNA land confronted, and the forests protected once and for all. Today's announcement just proves it can be done when there is the will. To date, the Crown has lacked that will.

"I call on the Minister to extend this settlement model to all other SILNA land where acre upon acre of native trees have already been lost, and he must do this as soon as possible, before it is too late," said Sandra Lee.

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