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Wellington activists target Conservation Minister

Published by MAC on 2007-02-26

Wellington activists target Conservation Minister

Press Release: Save Happy Valley Coalition

26th February 2007

Dressed as kiwi, kakariki & geckos, activists from Save Happy Valley Coalition (SHVC) Wellington targeted Conservation Minister Chris Carter as he visited the Department of Conservation (DoC)'s new offices on Manners Street this afternoon.

Activists portrayed the Conservation Minister setting off a mock coal mining blast amidst native animals & birds, to symbolise the threat that the Government's backing of coal mining represents to biodiversity & climate stability.

SHVC is protesting Conservation Minister Chris Carter's decision supporting coal mining on Mt Augustus on the West Coast of the South Island.

DoC has closed the public conservation land at Mt Augustus, 30km from Westport, to allow coal miner Solid Energy to continue blasting. Activists remain camped on DoC land, where they have been for the past three weeks, in an attempt to save the last remaining habitat of the critically endangered Powelliphanta 'Augustus' snail and draw attention to the climate changing nature of Solid Energy's coal extraction.

In April 2006, Conservation Minister Chris Carter gave permission for the rare endemic Powelliphanta 'Augustus' snails to be removed from most of their known habitat, on the ridgeline of Mt Augustus.

This overrode scientific advice provided by DoC's snail expert Kath Walker, that moving the snails is likely to result in their extinction. Professor Timothy New of La Trobe University in Melbourne reviewed the evidence & concluded "the only option with high likelihood of retaining the snail population is absolute protection of the remaining habitat & its surrounds …".

SHVC Spokesperson Alex Winter-Billington said, "The Department of Conservation's official mission is "to conserve New Zealand's natural & historic heritage for all to enjoy now & in the future".

"It is blatantly hypocritical that they are supporting the wholesale destruction of pristine wilderness area & habitat, as well as the frightening & broad-reaching impact of climate change when the coal extracted is burnt."

"Essentially, however, it is clear that DoC is simply a pawn in this Government's unchecked pursuit of short-term economic gain, placing our natural heritage & future in the face of global climate change at risk."

"We are here today in solidarity with the activists currently occupying Mt Augustus and to draw attention to the hypocrisy of the decisions made by our Conservation Minister."


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