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National park protection for Canaan Downs welcomed

April 23 2004 - Takaka.

National park protection for Canaan Downs welcomed

The Royal Forest and Bird Society today welcomed the Government's announcement that 758ha of the Canaan Downs farm on Takaka Hill has been purchased for protection and addition to the Abel Tasman National Park. Society President, Dr Gerry McSweeney who is also a member of the Nature Heritage Fund, said that the Canaan Downs property has for a long time been an enclave of largely natural private land surrounded by one of New Zealand's smallest but most popular National Parks.

"The huge demand for rural natural land in Nelson-Golden Bay meant it was only a matter of time before this area was developed for housing or for a use inappropriate for land next to a National Park," Dr McSweeney said. "The area also has major natural values in it's own right such as a diversity of native birds, giant land-snails, important forest and shrubland communities adapted to marble and limestone," he said. "Under national park protection, Forest and Bird expects to see a major increase in pest control for this area. Giant land-snails are severely threatened by possums. Predatory stoats and rats are jeopardising the future of most native birds in this area," he said.

"The Department of Conservation in Nelson-Marlborough leads New Zealand in the control of pests to save giant land-snails," he said.

"The Canaan Downs protection is the most recent example of a conservation revolution being led by the Government," he said.

"Since 2000, under it's Biodiversity Strategy, the Government has substantially lifted the financial resources of the Nature Heritage Fund, the Nga Whenua Rahui Fund for Maori land protection and the Queen Elizabeth 2 National Trust. These organisations have been able to expand New Zealand's ability to safeguard nature on private land," he said. There have been a series of strategic protection achievements by the Nature Heritage Fund announced over the last year that are great news both for nature and all outdoor recreationalists.

These include:

* the protection in full public ownership of the Boyle, Doubtful and Hope and Kiwi valleys on the Poplars Station near Lewis Pass, * protection of the magnificent Ahuriri valley on Birchwood Station and * the decision to vest Molesworth with the Conservation Department.

"In Golden Bay, Biodiversity Strategy funding to the Nature Heritage Fund has resulted in the protection of the Maungarakau Wetland, sand dune forest at Kahurangi Point , the Rawhiti Caves and now the Canaan Downs forest," Dr McSweeney said. "There is a major role for private nature protection but for some of the large, strategic natural areas next to National Parks and reserves, full public ownership is appropriate. Forest and Bird congratulate the Government for their courage and foresight in protecting these areas," he said.


The problems of enclaves

For decades, conservation land managers, scientists, outdoor enthusiasts and Forest and Bird have recognised that there are big gaps in our protected lands and enclaves of unprotected land in the heart of many of our most precious National Parks and Reserves. Little action was taken to correct this problem while the Government's priority was on the establishment and efficient running of the Conservation Department.

Meanwhile goat and intensive cattle grazing of enclaves has resulted in continually trespassing of stock into reserves. Lowland forest has been cleared and wetlands drained next to protected reserves.

In recent years a boom in rural land development has resulted in insensitive coastal housing and tourism development right next to or even in the middle of our most precious National Parks and Reserves. New owners in the South Island high country have exercised their trespass rights to exclude the public from traditional hunting and fishing areas.


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