• Nick Smith

Minister of Conservation Nick Smith has rejected a report commissioned by the Business Round Table, which calls for access changes, privatisation of conservation land, private ownership of endangered species and dismemberment of the Department of Conservation.

"I have a very simple message for the Business Round Table - "Hands off". The recipe they propose for managing New Zealand's heritage is one based on greed and exploitation. My advice to the Round Table is to forget their corporate fantasies of dismembering DOC and privatising our parks. The Coalition Government will not have a bar of it."

"Charging for access to our National Parks and Conservation areas would deprive thousands of New Zealanders of their birthright. Putting access to our beaches, lakes and mountains up for auction will ensure an exclusive holiday for a few rich New Zealanders and tourists, but would destroy the Christmas holidays of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders. Free public access is a core concept of the National Parks Act and is here to stay".

"The proposition to privatise our endangered species like the kakapo, kiwi or kokako is equally loony. Business may take an interest in preserving a few specimens in private collections or zoo's, where they can generate a return on their investment, but they would have little incentive to see their numbers flourish in the wild. Business can play a positive role in helping our native birds survive, like the BNZ sponsorship of the Kiwi Recovery Programme and Comalco's support of the Kakapo Recovery Project. Private ownership, though, is a non-starter".

"Dismembering the Department of Conservation, as advocated in the report, and subjecting the new agency responsible for our conservation land to the Business Round Table's concept of "sustainable development" is a recipe for a tourism and mining takeover of conservation. The great failing of New Zealand conservation management prior to 1987 was that it was spread across five different agencies. It would be a huge leap backwards to now drop the integrated approach and return to a piecemeal approach to conservation".

"The Department of Conservation has proven it is not afraid of change. We are working on better information systems, as well as closely liaising with the visitor industry and talking more with the community, particularly neighbouring farmers and Maori. This year the Department of Conservation has gone through a major restructuring and in the New Year, I will be launching the Department's five year business plan. It will set out a clear direction for the Department and will deliver far more for conservation than the purist ideology advocated by the Business Round Table".

"The Round Table can fantasise all it likes about getting its hands on conservation icons like the Southern Alps and Coromandel beaches, or our unique species like the kiwi and tuatara. The bottom line is they are not for sale".