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Welcome Budget projects but Vote Conservation cut

May 28, 2004 - Wellington

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Welcome Budget projects but Vote Conservation cut

Forest and Bird welcomed new project spending for conservation announced yesterday in the Budget, but warns it did not address fundamental gaps in core work to save New Zealand's native plants and animals.

Total 'Vote Conservation' has been reduced by $16 million and is projected to decrease further in the following two years.

"The country has responsibility for some of the world's most remarkable plants and animals and wild places. Yet every year, this world heritage is slowly being erased off the earth - killed by predators and smothered by weeds," Forest and Bird's Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell said.

"New money for wilding conifer control is great news. This money is a much needed boost for to efforts to prevent pines from smothering the natural ecosystems of places like Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park," he said.

"Funding to create new pest free island sanctuaries on Secretary and Resolution Islands are important additions to New Zealand's conservation insurance policy. This initiative is a major step forward in island conservation," he said.

Last year the chief executives of the four government departments responsible for implementing the Biodiversity Strategy revealed that there was not enough funding to halt the decline of New Zealand's native biodiversity.

"This year's funding is not enough to plug the gap identified last year by government officials. There is an urgent need to increase efforts if the Government's goal of halting the decline in biodiversity is to be achieved," he said.

"In spite of the positive conservation initiatives in this year's Budget, whio (blue duck), kiwi, and other native birds will continue to disappear from their habitats and our national parks will not get the protection from weeds and pests that they need," he said.

"Over 50 important conservation projects were 'reprioritised' earlier this year to free up $910,000 for Operation Ark. We applaud Operation Ark, but emergency measures deserve new money and the government is not cash strapped. There's no reason why $910,000 of new money can't be found," he said.

"We will be urging the Government to put forward a supplementary estimate to reprieve these projects and will be looking for a conservation dividend in next year's budget," he said.

ENDS

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