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PCE’s call for certainty over DOC land overdue

PCE’s call for certainty over DOC land overdue

Forest & Bird says that if the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s new recommendations on how the Department of Conservation manages its estate had been in place five years ago, the unique Denniston Plateau would be safe from the threat of open cast coal mining.

The PCE, Dr Jan Wright, recommends in a report released this morning that DOC should decide on which parts of its stewardship land holdings have high natural values, and then classify them accordingly.

Around a third of the public conservation estate is ‘stewardship land,’ which has never been classified. Only a small proportion of stewardship land has been reclassified since DOC was created in the late 1980s.

“DOC’s stewardship land includes some of the best parts of the country. For instance, 35 per cent of New Zealand’s newest national park – Rakiura, on Stewart Island - was stewardship land. Now it is some of the most protected country in New Zealand,” says Kevin Hackwell, Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager.

“Much of the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau and its surrounds have been recommended for greater protection. Indeed the plateau is on DOC’s list of the top 50 most precious mainland sites. But these recommendations have never been put into effect. And because it is still designated as stewardship land, it doesn’t have a level of legal protection that matches its conservation values.

“That anomaly allowed Conservation Minister Nick Smith to grant Bathurst Resources permission to turn a huge chunk of the plateau into a coal mine,” Kevin Hackwell says.

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Forest & Bird has been involved in an ongoing fight to save the plateau since 2010.

“The PCE’s recommendations are long overdue. There are a host of other examples of how community groups and businesses would have saved huge amounts of money and time if those stewardship lands with high natural values had been given the appropriate protection,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“Bathurst Resources would never have considered mining Denniston if DOC had been properly resourced to implement the recommendations of its experts,” says Kevin Hackwell.


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