Government cancels mineral prospecting plans in national parks… but presses ahead in UNESCO world heritage site | WWF New Zealand

Government cancels mineral prospecting plans in national parks… but presses ahead in UNESCO world heritage site

Posted on
20 July 2010
WWF-New Zealand has welcomed the Government’s decision to withdraw plans for mineral prospecting in national parks, but stated the proposal should never have been on the table in the first place.

“It is positive that the Government is no longer considering prospecting for minerals in high value conservation land protected in Schedule 4, and this result is to the credit of the many thousands of New Zealanders who stood up to the Government on this critically important issue. But this proposal should never have been on the table in the first place,” said WWF-New Zealand’s Executive Director Chris Howe.

“It has taken an expensive and time consuming consultation process for Minister Brownlee to grasp what most New Zealanders understand as common sense - that we should not prospect for minerals on land that has been protected from mineral extraction,” said WWF’s Chris Howe.

WWF has serious concerns about the Government proposal to encourage prospecting for minerals in conservation land not protected in Schedule 4.  Minister Brownlee today claimed that public opposition to mining Schedule 4 land was a ‘clear mandate’ for prospecting for minerals in other areas, which WWF branded as “fundamental and deliberate misinterpretation”.  

“The consultation did not ask about prospecting in the rest of New Zealand, and the public opposition does not imply New Zealanders have given a green light for prospecting in other conservation areas.  If anything, it demonstrates the opposite,” said Chris Howe.

The areas proposed by the Government for mineral prospecting include part of one of only three UNESCO World Heritage Areas in New Zealand - Te Wāhipounamu – and the Te Paki Ecological District, an area of significant ecological diversity in Northland.

Te Wāhipounamu is the South West New Zealand World Heritage area regarded as one of the world’s best examples of a dynamic mountainous landscape.  As the least modified region on mainland New Zealand, Te Wāhipounamu is important for the conservation of many animals which have disappeared from other parts of New Zealand. Takahe, South Island brown kiwi and mohua (yellowhead) are just a few of the endangered or threatened animals which still survive in this vast wilderness.

“These are significant areas for native species. They should not be put at risk from exploitation by the mining industry if minerals are found under them. Mineral extraction is, by its very nature, non-renewable and inevitably damages or destroys habitat and the wildlife that lives there.  We, along with our conservation colleagues will continue to challenge the Government’s agenda to put the short-term, limited economics of mineral prospecting ahead of conservation of our natural heritage.”

Ends

Notes to editors

About Northland’s Te Paki Ecological District

•    Te Paki Ecological District covers approximately 30,917 ha and is located at the northern extremity of Northland. Te Paki contains a high diversity of flora and fauna species, including many endemic taxa, such as Barlett’s Rata (M. bartletii) with only 30 known adult trees remaining.
•    Virtually all natural areas in the Ecological District are of nationally significant conservation and ecological value with several areas reaching international significance.
•    A large proportion of the natural areas identified are protected however most of this is Recreation Reserve which does not adequately provide for biodiversity protection.

About Te Wāhipounamu - the South West of New Zealand UNESCO World Heritage site.

•    One of only three UNESCO world heritage areas in New Zealand.
•    The South West of New Zealand is one the great natural areas of the world. It is internationally recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
•    Te Wāhipounamu includes national parks and non-park areas. The Government’s new proposal covers non-national park areas.
•    Known to the original Māori inhabitants as Te Wāi Pounamu – the greenstone waters, the 2.6 million hectare site encompasses Westland Tai Poutini, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring / Tititea and Fiordland National Parks and covers almost 10% of New Zealand’s total land area.
•    Rocks, plants and animals which take us back 80 million years to a time when New Zealand was part of the ancient super-continent Gondwana.
•    Spectacular ice carved fiords, lakes and valleys – amongst the finest examples of glaciated landforms in the Southern Hemisphere.
•    A stronghold for rare plants and animals living in a range of habitats.
•    Much of the area is covered with ancient and mature stands of southern beech and podocarp trees. The kea, an alpine parrot lives in the area, as does the endangered takahe, a large flightless bird. Within this area there are three endemic taxa of kiwi; rowi, Haast tokoeka and Fiordland tokoeka, the first two of which are the most endangered varieties of kiwi in New Zealand.

Media contacts: Jenny Riches WWF Marketing & Communications Manager, tel: 04 4714288 / 0274477158

About WWF
WWF-New Zealand is part of the WWF International Network, the world’s largest and most experienced independent conservation organisation. It has close to five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. This is achieved by working on the ground with local communities, and in partnership with government and industry, using the best possible science to advocate change and effective conservation policy.



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