Sacrificing habitat of threatened species for irrigation reservoir is a bad deal

The Department of Conservation’s (DoC) decision to allow the habitat of threatened species such as long-tailed bat to be used for an irrigation reservoir sets a dangerous precedent that threatens our native wildlife, the Green Party said today.

DoC’s Director-General has agreed to revoke the conservation status of 22 hectares of Ruahine Forest Park to allow the Ruataniwha irrigation dam and reservoir to proceed in return for 170 ha of private land called the Smedley Block.

“DoC’s decision to sacrifice the homes of threatened native wildlife such as long-tailed bats, North Island fernbird, and native fish to subsidise irrigation does not represent the desire of New Zealanders to protect our distinctive plants and wildlife,” said Green Party acting conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“A healthy economy depends on a healthy environment. If a development relies on destroying the habitat of threatened native species, it should not go ahead.

“The Green Party will protect the habitat of threatened species, giving them a safe place to live in. New Zealanders love our distinctive wildlife such as our bats and native fish, and want to see them protected, not put under further pressure from habitat loss.

“New Zealand only has two indigenous land mammals and long-tailed bats are one of them.

“DoC’s decision downplays the conservation values of  the public land it is giving away and overstates the values of the Smedley Block, which it is getting in return. 

“The Smedley Block is not even part of an area that departmental ecological survey reports have recommended for protection.  It has been logged, is grazed and DoC reports can only say that the exchange land is “promising habitat” for skinks and geckos but does not confirm their presence.

“The losers in this deal are our native wildlife, especially bats, fernbird and native fish, including several threatened species, and New Zealanders who love our outdoors.

“DoC’s website lists the threats to long-tailed bats as including cutting down roost trees, predators and introduced species. It can now add DoC’s own short-sightedness in giving up bat habitat to irrigators,” said Ms Sage.

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