Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage is increasingly showing how hamstrung she is as she won’t rule out new mines on conservation land and the Government’s competing coalition priorities continue to pull her in opposite directions, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“Today in Question Time we saw Minister Sage wavering on her commitment to the Government’s policy of no new mines on conservation land when she said that mining on stewardship land would be considered as part of policy developments,” Ms Dowie says.
“Ms Sage’s admission in the House flies in the face of her Party’s policy and is another example of NZ First walking all over the Greens.
“The Government claimed in its foundational document the Speech from the Throne that it would not allow new mining on conservation land, but given that it will be considered in future policy decisions it is clearly not off the table.
“New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals officials were recently granted access to prospect mining areas across vast areas of conservation land, in spite of the Government’s promise of no new mining on the conservation estate.
“It begs the question why the Government is allowing mining prospecting on public conservation land if it has promised to put an end to mining on the conservation estate?
“We oppose mining on high-value conservation land but New Zealand needs a pragmatic and balanced approach to the economy and the environment.
“Ms Sage vowed to remain as Minister of Conservation if new mines are approved by the Government on any of today’s conservation estate, but her own answers suggest that as per usual, the preferences of Shane Jones and NZ First may yet win out.”
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage is increasingly showing how hamstrung she is as the Government’s competing coalition priorities continue to go against her, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
The Government claimed in its foundational document the Speech from the Throne that it would not allow new mining on conservation land,” Ms Dowie says.
“But recently, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has acknowledged how vital the extractive industries are for future economic activity on the West Coast and he has dropped some heavy hints that Department of Conservation stewardship land will continue to be available for mining.
“This is at the same time as Labour MP Damien O’Connor is stating that ‘we need to continue with mining in order to construct key infrastructure around the country,’ and the Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods is promoting the potential use of the West Coast as a source of rare minerals which are essential for wind turbines and hybrid cars.
“So which is it? Once again Ms Sage has been found to not have the answers.
“Today in Question Time we saw another clear example of the ideological divisions that are creating uncertainty and halting progress in regional New Zealand.
“National supports sensible steps to protect our environment and reduce our carbon emissions. We oppose mining on high-value conservation land but New Zealand needs a pragmatic and balanced approach to the economy and the environment.
“The Government has shown with its decision to ban oil and gas exploration in Taranaki that it seems intent on undermining New Zealand’s economy and prosperity.
“It’s time for Ms Sage to admit that her Government has misled New Zealanders and that it is now Government policy to allow mining on stewardship land by simply carving it out of the conservation estate. How can regional New Zealand expect to have any certainty when all three coalition parties are expressing competing priorities and policies?”
Revelations that 1080 poison has been dumped in a national park on Stewart Island need to be urgently investigated and dealt with, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“Stewart Island is home to an incredibly diverse array of New Zealand’s native wildlife and we should be doing everything we can to protect and enhance that.
“But this reckless dumping of 1080 completely undermines that. It is a horrible breach of the trust we place in the workers responsible for helping to protect our native species.
“There are also strict rules around the disposal of hazardous waste and they have been flouted and those responsible must face the consequences.
“We need to know urgently how this was allowed to happen, how it will be prevented in the future and who is going to be held accountable to ensure public trust isn’t further eroded and more wildlife isn’t put in danger.”
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage today told the Environment Select Committee that her key achievement in office is requiring New Zealanders who go tramping to carry power bills to prove to DOC rangers that they are kiwis, National’s Conservation Spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“This is outrageous. New Zealanders have an expectation that they have open access to the great outdoors. Instead, Ms Sage expects when we pack our tramping bags – we will remember to include our latest power bill,” Ms Dowie says.
Ms Sage was also very defensive of her record as Conservation Minister.
“In Opposition, she had all the answers. Today in Government she was keen to attack sound and sensible policies and instead suggest that they be replaced with ideologically driven and unproven ideas.
“Ms Sage was unable to specify her marine priorities, tell us when cameras will be rolled out on commercial fishing vessels or commit to the future of the Game Animal Council. The Minister was not even aware that Winston Peters had pulled New Zealand from signing up to an international Pacific agreement that would protect delicate seabed life and species beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone.
“Further, she expressed her opposition to conservation partnerships with third parties and communities. National’s partnership approach secured more than 100 million dollars for conservation initiatives – money Ms Sage is happy to turn her back on as she reverts to a 1980s model of ‘DOC knows best’.
“The Government has found money to double Department of Conservation’s policy staff in Wellington, yet she had no idea how many new rangers she will have to help ensure the eradication of rats, stoats and possums.
“The recently released State of New Zealand Garden Birds report shows that there has been a dramatic drop in the number of native birds spotted in New Zealand gardens, with silvereye, song thrush and starling near disappearing from our back yards. This report clearly illustrates the importance of Predator Free 2050.
“With Ms Sage’s priorities constantly shapeshifting within her Green agenda, who knows what will happen next?”
Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash’s confirmation that it is his own colleagues that are blocking the rollout of cameras on commercial fishing boats is concerning, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
Ms Dowie says Mr Nash’s announcement that it was always his intention to put cameras on commercial fishing boats and that he will be taking a paper to Cabinet is welcome.
“It’s good to see that after eight months of delays and stagnation Mr Nash is finally supporting cameras on commercial fishing vessels,” Ms Dowie says.
“However, I am deeply disappointed that the Minister confirmed that it is his own Government colleagues that are blocking the roll-out of cameras on commercial fishing vessels and he is yet to convince Cabinet of the merit of cameras.
“That’s despite all the evidence – and support from the Department of Conservation - that cameras will make a difference in protecting our marine mammals.
“Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage needs to help Mr Nash get NZ First Ministers over the line.
“Ms Sage talked a big game in Opposition. She promised that with the Greens in Government ‘completely unacceptable’ fishing practices would stop. In Government, Ms Sage says nothing as NZ First continues to call the shots with Labour. The Government found a billion dollars for more diplomats but can’t get simple, practical measures across the line that would save dolphins and seabirds.
“If rolled-out fully as National proposed, digital monitoring will help revolutionise the way New Zealand’s commercial fisheries are managed and monitored and will help protect their sustainability.”
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage’s announcement today is another broken promise from a Government which continues to prove it is unable to back it up its unrealistic claims from Opposition, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“The $81.3 million increase over four years is a 4.6 per cent increase and barely more than inflation - and it’s less than what National put up. National’s 2017 Budget committed more than $107 million to DOC – the largest funding injection in its history.
“While the Greens claimed in Opposition that DOC’s budget needed to at least double to meet what it called the biodiversity crisis, this announcement is one twentieth of that.
“It’s another broken promise from a party that claims to be environmentally minded but has no mind for backing that up. It’s clear the Greens have been sidelined by their coalition partners and have struggled to gain more investment in the environment because almost a billion went to Winston’s diplomats.
“While DOC’s budget grew by 20 per cent under National, our conservation interest is in outperforming, rather than outspending our political opponents. We also need to be smart about it. For example our partnership approach also helped secure more than $100 million of private sector investment in nature.
“And National made significant progress. Our Battle for Our Birds efforts ramped up 1080 use seven-fold from 100,000 to over 700,000 hectares a year and we saw strong growth in endangered bird numbers. During our watch takahē numbers grew by 52 per cent, kakapo by 64 per cent, and kōkako by 130 per cent - a massive improvement.
“And Predator Free 2050 was one of the largest and most ambitious conservation efforts in New Zealand’s history.
“National does welcome the further increased investment in pest control, something we dramatically increased during our nine years in government under constant criticism from NZ First. NZ First promised to reduce the use of 1080 and needs to explain to its supporters why in Government it’s allowing efforts to continue to ramp up.
“Clearly there is much more coming from the Greens in this Budget – NZ First's tally is currently $4.9 billion, and the Greens are only sitting at $80 million,” Ms Dowie says.
Confirmation today that New Zealand First has rolled-over to allow the rollout of digital monitoring technology on commercial fishing boats is welcome and vindicates the work of the previous National Government, Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie and Fisheries spokesperson Ian McKelvie say.
“It’s good to see that after seven months of delays and stagnation, the Ardern-Peters Government has finally started to address the so-called technical and administrative issues they claimed surrounded electronic monitoring on commercial fishing vessels,” Ms Dowie says.
“However I am deeply disappointed that the Coalition continues to delay making a decision on extending this monitoring to include cameras. That’s despite all the evidence – and support from the Department of Conservation - that cameras will make a difference in protecting our marine mammals.
“This proves that Eugenie Sage has no influence on Stuart Nash and remains voiceless among her Coalition colleagues,” Ms Dowie says.
Mr McKelvie says today’s progress vindicates the earlier work of the previous National Government.
“Given the earlier protestations from New Zealand First, it’s wonderful to see how compliant they have become since the announcement Labour would give them $1 billion to spend on foreign aid.
“However, there must still be some infighting around the Cabinet table as the Coalition still doesn’t seem to have formed a view on whether that monitoring should include cameras.
“If rolled-out fully as we intended, digital monitoring will help revolutionise the way New Zealand’s commercial fisheries are managed and monitored and will help protect their sustainability,” he says.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has once again failed to do her job to improve environmental protections, today blocking an attempt to better protect endangered Great White Sharks, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“In Parliament today, the Conservation Minister prevented me from introducing my Members Bill, the Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) Bill, which will keep both Stewart Islanders and endangered Great White Sharks safe.
“My Bill would help keep people and sharks safe and separate and it’s needed. There are real concerns in Stewart Island that commercial cage diving is making their beaches less safe. We need to do more to reduce the risk of shark attacks and ensure these endangered sharks are left alone.
“Unfortunately for our marine species, a lack of action from the Conservation Minister is becoming a pattern. She is refusing to put in place practical measures to better protect them.
“Ministry for Primary Industries figures show that since 2013, a dozen whales, two orca, six hectors dolphins, thousands of seals and more than 10,000 seabirds have been caught by commercial fishing vessels in New Zealand waters.
“National had a plan to turn this around by introducing cameras and electronic monitoring on commercial fishing boats. But the Government has delayed this rollout and the result will mean our marine life is less well protected.
“Minister Sage has completely failed in her advocacy and clearly has no voice with her coalition colleagues who are unable, or unwilling, to overcome so-called ‘technical difficulties’ that are delaying a measure that will better protect our marine species.
“It’s not good enough that the very person charged with better protecting our environment is instead doing the opposite. I challenge Minister Sage and the Greens to live up to their promises.”
Sarah Dowie MP for Invercargill has introduced a Members’ Bill to the ballot to address a previously unregulated activity in New Zealand, shark cage diving.
“My Members Bill, the Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) Bill has been lodged in the Members Ballot and would provide best practice regulations for shark cage diving activities,” Ms Dowie says.
“The Bill acknowledges and addresses the risk that is posed by shark cage diving that is carried out in close proximity to beaches. This risk is increased due to the nature of competing activities in coastal waters in the Stewart Island area, where shark cage diving is currently carried out.
“Water-users, residents and families on Stewart Island have felt endangered by shark cage diving operations that are carried out close to the shore. Something needs to be done to ensure that consideration of public safety surrounding shark cage diving activities is paramount.
“The Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) Bill would provide conditions for granting permits relating to the geographical area within which the commercial shark cage diving operation may operate, as well as minimum distances of operation from specified locations such as beaches.
“It would also provide the means to ensure that the people operating the cages work in a way that poses no threat to sharks, while also mitigating the clear threat to the safety of the public using the sea for work or recreation.
“The introduction of the Bill to the ballot is supported by a number of organisations in the industry including PauaMac5 and the Kina Industry Council who welcome the clarity that the Bill would provide on this serious ongoing issue.
“I have had ongoing involvement with the matter since it was initially brought to my attention in 2014 and I am excited to lodge this Members’ Bill in the Members’ Bill Ballot. If it is drawn from the ballot I look forward to seeking cross-party support.”
National Party Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie has welcomed the Department of Conservation’s rollout of cleaning stations in response to the spread of kauri dieback.
“Kauri dieback is devastating our forests and one of our most iconic tree species and we must be doing everything we can to stop it.
“The previous National Government was hugely focused on doing so, initially allocating nearly $30 million dollars to fast-track and beef up the Government’s response.
“Since then however, the new Government and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage have been too slow in moving to stop the spread.
“The Minister needs to start getting more done to ensure that Conservation is not a forgotten priority.
“On top of her inexplicable failure to rollout monitoring cameras on fishing boats to better protect our marine species she is fast looking like she is either uncommitted to conservation or failing to get the support of her fellow governing parties to do her job.
“In the meantime action on protecting our environment has gone backwards, kauri dieback continues to spread, and we need more action from our floundering Government.”