The closure of ‘The Four Sisters’ walking track in Northland due to Kauri Dieback has brought into focus this Government’s painfully slow approach to dealing with the disease, National’s Conservation Spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“In December 2017 Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage asked the Kauri Dieback Programme to develop a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP) to stop the spread of this concerning pathogen.
“Emphasising how ‘urgent and effective action’ was needed to save these iconic trees, both Ministers said this was ‘by far the strongest piece of regulation available’.
“But two and a half years later this Government has failed to meet its lofty rhetoric, with the final consultation round only recently closing in March. Meanwhile the Management Plan itself, which is now at Cabinet, isn’t pencilled for release until September 2019.
“This is hardly the ‘urgent and effective’ response this Government promised in December 2017. What we’ve been given instead is a piecemeal response that isn’t going to have any tangible effect for some time to come.
“Dozens of tracks on DOC land are closed, some permanently, while others remain partially closed with access restricted in certain areas. The timeframes for partially closed tracks differs from site to site and there are large tracts of at-risk forests that are still open to the public.
“We are past consultation and need clear action to stop the spread of this devastating pathogen—or else we risk losing our Northern Forests altogether.”
Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie is congratulating the Ministry of Education for reconsidering its programme of consultation and sending the review panel to Southland so our community can have its say.
“National was informed last week that the consultation review panel would only travel as far south as Christchurch, despite the Government considering massive changes to the Polytechnic sector which could drastically affect the Southern Institute of Technology.
“The panel has today announced it will be coming to Southland. I commend them for this turn around.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins has been very defensive with me about this on social media. The amount of time he’s spent trying to argue with me on Facebook and Twitter would have been better spent out in the community talking to the people who will be impacted by these reforms.
“While I’m grateful the panel will be visiting Invercargill, my offer remains open to the Minister to come to Southland and hear from our community about an issue we feel so strongly about as he is yet to confirm whether he will visit with the panel.
“I also encourage the Minister to extend the consultation period to longer than the six weeks he’s put aside.
“Invercargill is rightly proud of SIT. SIT feeds into our Southland Regional Development Strategy to attract 10,000 more people to Southland by 2025 and has helped diversify our community. It’s important that the Minister comes here and see this success for himself.”
Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie is encouraging WasteNet to consider the social value that Southland DisAbility Enterprises has to the community when it retenders its contract.
“Southland disAbility Enterprises provides meaningful employment and development opportunities to people with disabilities in our communities. It’s a great scheme which enriches people’s lives.
“We understand that WasteNet has a business to run, but we encourage them to consider that without this contract 100 jobs could be lost and there would be an additional burden on taxpayers of $5 million annually in unemployment or sickness benefits.
“From my own experience visiting SDE I can say that it’s one of the best workplace cultures I have ever seen. The employees love their work and their comradery is second to none. Their contribution to the Southland community is huge.
“Eighty per cent of the staff have a disability. I encourage the people who are considering the tender to visit this amazing company. It will be one of the most incredible and unique businesses you will ever see.”
National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie welcomes the Government finally listening to hunting groups, including the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association and the Game Animal Council, and backing down from its original position to cull tens of thousands of tahr.
“Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage had ordered the culling of up to 25,000 tahr without adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters who would be directly affected.
"Yesterday the Minister made changes to the locations of the cull and a commitment to review the cull after limiting it to an original 6000. She also conceded a reduction in the numbers of bulls to be killed, which would preserve tahr for trophy hunters.
“While I welcome the fact that Ms Sage has finally listened, I am disappointed it has taken so long for her to show respect to hunting groups.
“The Minister has no excuse for not adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters before she made the decision to cull.
“It’s clear the only reason the Minister has pulled back is because the hunters were heading to court to stop her plans. Over $156,000 was raised through Givealittle to pay for lawyers to stop the cull.
“On top of this, almost 33,000 concerned New Zealanders signed my petition calling on her to stop the cull in its current form.
“National believes tahr numbers do need to be sensibly managed, but conservation decisions should be based on science not ideology, and should involve engagement with key stakeholders.”
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has been forced to postpone the mass tahr cull she ordered to start this weekend because of huge pressure from recreational hunting and tourism industry, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“Ms Sage personally ordered the culling of tens of thousands of tahr without adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters who would be directly affected.
“While I welcome the fact that Ms Sage has delayed her cull this weekend, I am disappointed it has come to this.
“While National supports managing tahr numbers, the Minister has no excuses for not adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters.
“The hunting sector is advocating a responsible plan to manage tahr numbers rather than the slaughter of tens of thousands of animals. If Ms Sage had properly consulted, she would have a better understanding of this.
“Ms Sage must halt the cull until she has listened to advice from hunting representatives like the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association who have proposed a managed hunter-led population reduction over three years.
“Almost 23,000 concerned New Zealanders have signed my petition calling on her to stop the cull. She must listen to them."
The petition calling on Eugenie Sage to Stop the Tahr Cull can be found here.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage needs to listen to the almost 20,000 Kiwis who have signed my petition in less than 15 hours and halt her cull of tens of thousands of tahr, due to start this weekend, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“Ms Sage’s decision to kill these tahr based on anecdotal evidence and without a proper consultation process with recreational hunters and the hunting industry is appalling.
“This is not based on science and is an unacceptable slap in the face for the hundreds of thousands of recreational hunters who make a difference on the ground for conservation.
“Not only that, Ms Sage has also specifically instructed Department of Conservation to cull bull tahr – worth an estimated $14,000 each to the booming hunting tourism industry.
“National believes that conservation should be based on science, not ideology. Like the hunting community, National believes tahr numbers do need to be sensibly managed.
“Instead of taking a pragmatic approach, Ms Sage is ignoring advice from hunting representatives like the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association who have proposed a managed hunter-led population reduction over three years.
“The Minister is arming DOC rangers with guns and chartering helicopters as we speak.
“The cull starts Sunday. It must be stopped.”
The petition calling on Eugenie Sage to Stop the Tahr Cull can be found here.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage needs to halt her cull of 17,500 Himalayan Tahr due to start on 30 September until proper engagement and consultation has taken place, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“Ms Sage’s decision to cull 17,500 Tahr without a consultation process with the industry illustrates her Greens-know-best approach to all matters of Government.
“She must stop this cull until her Department has had a chance to consult with the hunting industry and recreational hunters properly.
“The new Minister is positioning the direction of DOC away from recreation and visitor assets.
“National believes in a pragmatic approach to conservation, and the recreation sector plays an important role in this. With respect to Tahr control, the Minister must ensure that the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan 1993 is still fit for purpose before it is imposed at will.
“Her decision to cull Himalayan Tahr comes on the back of her decision to abandon the interests of hunters by putting the future of the Game Animal Council through yet another of the Government’s reviews.
“Ms Sage does not feel the need to listen or provide sufficient resources to the Council for the many services that they offer, such as establishing management plans for ‘herds of special interest’ and giving advice on aerial hunting codes, illegal hunting and access to the conservation estate.
“This is unacceptable and a clear slap in the face for the hundreds of thousands of recreational hunters who make a difference on the ground for conservation.
“Fishing, hunting, and outdoor recreation are part of New Zealand’s unique way of life. National’s Bluegreen approach of having recreationists more directly involved and getting sector groups like recreational and commercial hunters around the table to resolve matters such as Himalayan Tahr would have avoided the mess Ms Sage has created.
“Unfortunately, the current Government and Minister of Conservation have abandoned the interests of New Zealanders getting into the great outdoors.
“If Ms Sage won’t enable New Zealanders and the hunting sector to get out and engage with conservation efforts – then we are fighting a losing battle.”
Statements by Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson that 1080 protestors have ‘valid concerns’ completely contradict her colleague - Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage’s policy of increasing the use of 1080, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“We are getting used to the different parties in Government contradicting each other, but it is a new level of chaos when we have a Green co-leader contradicting her own Green Minister.
“Ms Sage has consistently argued that 1080 is the best tool for protecting New Zealand’s native species and the statement by Ms Davidson that protestors have valid concerns puts a spoke in the wheel of the Government’s conservation programme.
“Ms Davidson comments just muddy the waters and undermine the efforts and hard work of Department of Conservation staff in protecting New Zealand’s species.
“National is committed to ensuring that our children, and their children, will be able to experience kiwi and other native birds in the wild.
“We believe that conservation should be based on science, not ideology.
“The science is unequivocal, 1080 is currently the best tool we have for controlling the rats, stoats and possums that kill 25 million birds per year.
“National introduced Predator Free New Zealand and expanded the area where pests are controlled from 100,000 hectares a year to over 800,000 hectares. We welcomed the announcement from the Government in the Budget to further double it to 1.6 million hectares.
“The confused messaging in this Government are not just from the Green Party. NZ First campaigned to ban the use of 1080 – but when in Government voted to double its use.
“This is not the first time Ms Sage has found herself out of step with her own party leadership. Her decision to grant Overseas Investment Act approval to a water bottler was controversial.
“National is the only party that has consistently taken a science-based approach to pest control.”
Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash’s admission today that he still hasn’t made a call on the introduction of cameras on commercial fishing vessels shows NZ First continues to hold Labour and the Greens over a barrel, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“Mr Nash confirmed at the Forest and Bird conference in June that it is his own colleagues who are blocking the roll-out of cameras on commercial fishing vessels even though we know they would bring immense conservation benefits.
“If rolled-out fully as National proposed, digital monitoring would help revolutionise the way New Zealand’s commercial fisheries are managed and monitored and ensure fewer of our marine mammals like dolphins and seals are accidentally killed.
“The Government’s claim that it is making progress on so-called technical and administrative issues is just an excuse to buy more time while Labour kowtows to its minor party colleague.
“Mr Nash promised in June that a paper was due to go to Cabinet soon. However, it is now clear that NZ First Ministers are still standing in the way.
“Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage needs to help Mr Nash get NZ First 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.
“As we have seen this week, NZ First is undermining the Labour and the Greens at every step. Now NZ First are blocking simple, practical measures across the line that would save dolphins and seabirds.”
A Members Bill to provide best practice regulations for shark cage diving activities has been drawn from the ballot and will be debated in Parliament, National’s Conservation spokesperson and local Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie says.
“The Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) 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.
“This Bill comes after a Court of Appeal judgment that would close down shark cage divers. Shark cage tourism operators have no intention of giving up their fight, hence this Bill is timely.
"The Court also stated that it is now for Parliament to consider whether these activities should be permitted.
“Something needs to be done to ensure that consideration of public safety surrounding shark cage diving activities is paramount.
“The 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 Bill is supported by both tourism operators and fishers.
“I have had ongoing involvement with the matter since it was initially brought to my attention in 2014. I look forward to seeking cross-party support.”