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Coal miner breaches permit in rush to extinction

Coal miner breaches permit in rush to extinction

MEDIA RELEASE Save Happy Valley Coalition 15/08/06

The Save Happy Valley Coalition is horrified that Solid Energy is rushing the critically endangered native land snail Powelliphanta "Augustus" out of its wild habitat and into the fridge in Hokitika – with the blessing of the Department of Conservation and in breach of its Wildlife Permit - in an apparent attempt to ensure that the species' habitat is destroyed before the Courts can rule on the legality of the action undertaken by Solid Energy and the Minister of Conservation.

On Friday (11/08/06) the Greymouth Star reported that 170 snails are being kept in captivity in Hokitika – despite the fact that DOC and Solid Energy have not yet finalised the captivity protocol.

"One-third of the population is being kept in ice-cream containers in the fridge in Hokitika. This is not how you look after a critically endangered species. They're pulling snails off the mountain as fast as they can, with no suitable captive rearing facility in sight, hundreds of kilometres from the Powelliphanta expert who was charged with their care, and with no known suitable habitat to put them in. So much for Chris Carter's green-wash 'conditions'!" said Frances Mountier, Save Happy Valley Coalition spokesperson.

"Solid Energy and the Department of Conservation are rushing to drive this species to extinction in an attempt to pervert the judicial system. The Save Happy Valley Coalition Incorporated Society will be arguing in court that granting the permit was wrong, and that destroying the habitat breaches the Resource Management Act. But that won't help the species if their habitat has already been utterly destroyed!"

Documents released under the Official Information Act show that the Government and Solid Energy altered the permit after it was granted – decreasing from 250 to 50 the minimum number of snails to be found before mining operations began. The Department of Conservation then signed off the permit before all of the mitigation protocols were in place – which breaches the permit. Furthermore, Solid Energy is now acting in breach of even the watered-down permit. It has pulled one-third of the snail population off the mountain when it said it was searching less than 5% of the snails' habitat and in the least dense areas.

"The Directors and Managers of Solid Energy are taking a huge risk here; if the Environment Court case is successful, those individuals will be liable for prosecutions against them personally."

*********


Notes The Powelliphanta "Augustus" snail lives on only of five hectares of land within the Stockton opencast coal mine near Westport. Earlier this year the Government gave permission for its company to move 250 snails then mine 94 percent of the habitat, even though the Government's own scientists said this would result in the species' extinction. 1|| Breach of Permit, and therefore Wildlife Act 170 snails in a fridge in Hokitika; Under the Wildlife Permit, Solid Energy is only meant to be searching less than 5% of the source site in winter. (The densest part of the population is being saved for optimal searching conditions in the summer months).

Yet so far they have collected one third of the entire population. The snails are not being taken to Nelson, where NZ's Powelliphanta expert is. The captivity facility is now going to be built in Hokitika (as reported in Westport News, 15.08.06), yet OIA information shows that it had been decided the facilities were to be in Nelson.

It is likely that Ngati Waewae have not been consulted on where the snails are being taken. The snails are being kept in ice-cream containers even once in captivity. The snails have been taken into captivity before the captivity protocol has been finalised – i.e. there is no protocol for looking after them. The snails have been taken into captivity before the Captive Breeding Facility has been constructed. The protocol for transfer is not finalised – so these snails have no alternative future in sight. The Conservator of the Department of Conservation then signed off the permit before all of the mitigation protocols were in place, clearly in breach of the Ministers' intentions.


2|| Minister of Conservation changed Permit Documents released under the Official Information Act show that the Government and Solid Energy altered the permit after it was granted – decreasing from 250 to 50 the minimum number of snails to be found before mining operations began. No one else was informed of this change.

3 || Legality of Permit in question The Wildlife Permit to 'Hunt Kill and Possess' Powelliphanta "Augustus" is subject to a judicial review and to a case in the Environment Court. With the collusion of the Department of Conservation and the Minister of Conservation, Solid Energy is rushing to drive this species to extinction before the protocols are in place – in order to pre-empt the SHVC Incorporated's court action. The Conservator's actions particularly undermine the Society's High Court action, which names the Minister of Conservation as the defendant. As the Minister of Conservation is effectively the West Coast Conservator's superior, this brings the motivation for the Conservator's decisions into question.

4 || Species Extinction The science has not changed; DOC, the international peer review and the Royal Society have all said that mining the ridgeline (regardless of conditions) is highly likely to lead to the extinction of the species.

ENDS


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