A proposal to give 200 hectares of high country conservation land to a private Australian company to expand their ski area shows how the Minister of Conservation’s priorities are compromising the public conservation estate for business purposes, the Green Party said today.
The Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Canterbury Conservancy are on the verge of approving a land swap with Porter’s ski field owner, Blackfish, enabling a massive expansion of skiing on high country conservation land.
“The land Blackfish hopes to swap with the Department is land we already own, while the land we would lose as part of the deal has outstanding conservation value,” said Green Party conservation spokesperson Kevin Hague.
“There is no net conservation gain from the deal proposed so, under the law, the Minister will need to reject it.”
Mr Hague said the issue highlights the Minister of Conservation’s new business-focused priorities for DOC leaving major questions surrounding her statutory responsibility to be the advocate for the conservation estate.
“The Minister’s latest Statement of Intent reads more like a company report than a plan to protect our biodiversity,” said Mr Hague.
“Section 6 of the Conservation Act sets out the Minister’s roles and none of them have to do with the economic development of the conservation estate.
The new focus on commercialisation comes amidst the context of $54 million in budget cuts for DOC over the next four years.
“Massive budget cuts combined with a new focus on commercialisation will harm our native biodiversity irreparably,” said Mr Hague.
“The company we would be doing this deal for is largely Australian-owned, highlighting once again the willingness of this Government to give away New Zealanders' natural heritage to accommodate foreign business interests.”