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Government Sells Out Again on Native Forests

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society is calling on the Government to keep in public ownership three native forest areas on the Mamaku plateau, near Rotorua. The forests belong to the Crown-owned Forest Research Institute which is abandoning research into native forest species and wants to sell the forests for cash to balance its budget.

Forest and Bird spokesperson Linda Conning said that the Government should show its commitment to native forests and indigenous biodiversity and transfer the land to the Department of Conservation.

"For the Government to sell Crown-owned native forest, declared by its own Department to be important for flora and fauna, is hypocritical when they say they want to protect our dwindling biodiversity. It sets a bad precedent - will it next be DoC having to sell off conservation land to balance its budget?" Forest and Bird claim that the community will lose an important slice of scientific history and a valuable area of natural heritage if the Government puts money before principle. The land is close to Rotorua and on the main road to Hamilton, making it easy to get to and ideal for education.

When crown estates were allocated in 1987 the forests would have gone to DoC had not Forest Research wanted them for research. Now the research and trials have stopped, the forests should remain in public ownership under the management of the Department of Conservation, which will also protect the potential for future research. For instance, one forest has the most dense stands of rimu and totara regeneration ever studied, a research opportunity that should not be lost.

All the blocks are important to conservation and valuable as wildlife habitats. One has a 25 ha wetland, regionally rare plant species and some unusual vegetation associations.

"The Government is using the flimsy excuse of inter-department book balancing to sell these forests," says Ms conning. "It should show real commitment to its own Biodiversity Strategy by keeping these forests and protecting the wildlife they support."

ENDS

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