Minister of Conservation to make the decisions.

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PRESS STATEMENT from SAVE FIORDLAND INC. issued 24.2.13

Today the Minister of Conservation Dr Nick Smith has issued a media statement saying he will take responsibility for determining whether the proposals for a tunnel through Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks and for a monorail through the Snowdon Forest area will go ahead.

Both private developments would cut through public conservation land. These wilderness areas, and the endemic species within them, have such outstanding natural values and are of such international significance that they have World Heritage status.

Save Fiordland, which is campaigning against these proposals, has welcomed the announcement that such an important decision will be made at the top.  Chair of Save Fiordland, Daphne Taylor said today: "We hope that it reflects his understanding of how significant that World Heritage status is on every level - for the pride and sense of guardianship we New Zealanders have in our environmental heritage, for the unique kiwi lifestyle that goes with working and playing within these wilderness areas, for our obligations to future generations and the international community and also for the economic benefits the World Heritage status bestows on our 100% pure branding, the tourism industry in particular."

Save Fiordland calls on the Minister to ensure his decisions are made within the law and intent of numerous conservation management documents that guard carefully against developments of these kinds in New Zealand's specially protected areas. 

  • Conservation Act 1987
  • National Parks Act 1980
  • Fiordland National Park Management Plan 2007
  • Mt Aspiring National Park Management Plan 2011
  • Conservation Management Strategy for Mainland Southland and West Otago
  • Ngai Tahu Deed of Settlement.

This is in addition to the obligations the New Zealand government has as host nation to “take appropriate legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary for the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and rehabilitation of this heritage” (World Heritage Convention, 1972), this heritage being that of Te Wahipounamu - the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.

Chair of Save Fiordland, Daphne Taylor, said today: "Now the consultation process is over we are glad the new MInister is standing up to his responsibilities as the elected politician in charge of the Department of Conservation, and we urge him firstly to take heed of the laws and management documents protecting our conservation land and forbidding such projects, and secondly to ensure he has a full understanding of these documents and the outpouring of dismay by people throughout New Zealand and the world, expressed in responses to the consultation and throughout the public campaigning."

When appointed Minister of Conservation in January this year, Dr Nick Smith said that he felt very strongly about 'the conservation estate', 'the very special responsibility for New Zealand around those species that only exist in NZ' and about 'that great kiwi lifestyle that New Zealand is famous for' and 'ensuring all of that is available for future generations'.  

While welcoming that public commitment and the MInister's decision to take responsibility for the decisions, Save Fiordland is concerned that the Minister has failed to mention in his media statement any intention to meet with Save Fiordland or other campaigners against these proposals despite Save Fiordland having proffered him an invitation, upon his appointment last month. 

"We feel it is highly appropriate that he does meet with us.  His stated intention is to take advice from the Department of Conservation, the New Zealand Conservation Authority, and also to meet with the applicants for each project. If the Minister does not meet with us he will not have felt, first hand, the strength and breadth of opposition against these totally inappropriate proposals on our, the New Zealand public's, conservation land," said Taylor. "We want to be proud of, not fearful for, our world heritage."

 

 

The above was in response to Dr Nick Smith's media statement issued 24.2.13

Hon Dr Nick Smith, Minister of Conservation

 

24 February  2013

 

Fiordland projects to be determined by Minister

Proposals for the Milford Dart Tunnel through Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks and the Fiordland Link Experience of a catamaran, all-terrain vehicle track and monorail through the Snowdon Forest are to be determined by Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith.

“The Conservation and National Parks Acts provide for decisions on concession applications and proposals for roads in National Parks to be made by the Minister of Conservation. I have decided that given the scale of these Fiordland projects and the huge public interest it is not appropriate for these decisions to be delegated to a departmental official. These are public lands and it is proper that these decisions are made by a publicly elected and accountable official,” Dr Smith says.

This decision is consistent with the powers of delegation dating back to 1997, where the Director-General of Conservation shall refer matters of national interest, or involving significant environment, social or economic implications, to the Minister.

“The decisions on the Milford Dart Tunnel and Fiordland Link Experience will be difficult. Parks and reserves are much loved areas of New Zealand set aside for conservation and recreation. There is a particularly high threshold for projects in our National Parks. However, New Zealand also needs jobs and economic development.

“I have taken advice on ensuring a robust process. My primary advisor will be the Department of Conservation and its advice will be a matter of public record. I expect to receive the Department’s reports on the Milford Dart Tunnel soon and on the Fiordland Link Experience in the next few months.

“I will visit the affected areas and meet with the commissioners who heard the public submissions after I have received each Departmental report. I also intend to meet with the applicants of each project and seek the advice of the New Zealand Conservation Authority before making a decision.

“I will be taking a careful and considered approach and I am very conscious of the importance of coming to a fair and balanced decision.”

Should you wish to contact Dr Nick Smith, Minister of Conservation, his email address is:

nick.smith@parliament.govt.nz