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Maori Party: Conservation Department Unable To Conserve Rare Skink Habitat

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

3 July 2008 - The Minister of Conservation confirmed in Parliament yesterday that her department has had to remove a population of rare moko skinks from their natural habitat at Whangamata, in order to save them from the bulldozers.

The salt marsh where the skinks were recently rediscovered is part of the site for a huge marina development, due to start any time.

"I asked the Minister how the skinks would be protected, once the marina development has paved over the salt marsh for a car park, the pipi beds have been dredged for a shipping channel, and jetties, fuel depots and facilities have blocked public access to the shore," said Maori Party Co-leader Tariana Turia.

"The Minister said they were removing the skinks from their natural environment, clearly because the Conservation Department cannot guarantee to protect that environment," she said.

"On Tuesday, tangata whenua occupied the site, to protect not only the skinks, but also beds of pipi, rare native birds, and the natural habitat where they live.

"I also asked the Minister if the tangata whenua might have been in a stronger position to protect their foreshore and seabed themselves, if their customary rights had not been extinguished by her government's foreshore and seabed legislation. The Minister said her focus was on saving the skinks," said Mrs Turia.

"So the message is that the government confiscated the customary rights of tangata whenua, because they couldn't trust iwi to exercise their rights responsibly - and then the same government allows private developers to destroy the environment and prevent public access to and use of the shore - and simply concentrates on shifting the wildlife out before the bulldozers move in.

"Well, Minister, the tangata whenua will not be shifting - I am quite sure they are there to stay, and if they succeed in their occupation, the moko skinks, the rare birds and the pipi beds will be there to stay as well," she said.

"If anyone has to shift, it should be the developers, and soon, before they get to privatise this piece of foreshore and seabed, close off public access, sell the marina berths to the wealthy few, and then move on, taking their tidy profit with them," said Mrs Turia.

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