The proposed reclassification of stewardship land on the West Coast doesn’t go far enough to protect nature and the area’s spectacular landscapes, plants and wildlife, the Green Party says.
“We welcome the proposal to nearly double the size of the Paparoa National Park, one of the smallest national parks in Aotearoa, and the proposed new conservation parks. But other areas with the same high natural values which are just as worthy of stronger legal protection have missed out,” Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage says.
“It is disappointing that only limited areas of West Coast stewardship land are proposed for national park status, with no significant extensions to Tai Poutini/Westland or Aspiring National Parks proposed, no new nature reserves, and no extensions to wilderness areas.
“We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis and so it’s crucial we enhance the legal protection for conservation lands and waters and the native plants and wildlife they are home to.
“Big West Coast rivers need room to breathe and shift their course over time, especially with a changing climate, and more severe storm events and flooding. We would not support any proposal to sell off large areas of river flats and valley floors. Privatising river floodplains on conservation land for farming and mining is not a nature-based response to climate change, and risks compromising recreational access to the backcountry. It’s also likely to mean a demand for more stopbanks, instead of allowing lowland forest and wetlands to regenerate and adapt to the changing climate.
“Some 182,300 hectares of land - about three times the size of Lake Taupō - is proposed to have historic reserve status. This recognises historic and cultural values, but does not provide strong enough legal protection for native plants, wildlife and landscapes, as well as providing greater scope for commercial activities and leases than national park or scenic reserve status.
“The exercise underlines the need to reform the protected area classifications in conservation law to provide more effective tools which recognise cultural heritage and conservation values together, and better implement te Tiriti o Waitangi.
“We look forward to further work in South Westland. The reclassification process for the 140,000ha must recognise and better protect South Westland’s stunning natural landscapes, lakes, rivers, geological features, and unmodified forests, stretching ki uta ki tai from the mountains to the sea.
“As part of Te Wāhi Pounamu, the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, South Westland’s natural and cultural values are recognised internationally. They deserve stronger legal protection and a higher classification than their current status as stewardship land.
“We know protecting our precious taonga species in flourishing nature is important to many people in Aotearoa, and we encourage people to have their say in the Government’s consultation.”