8 Jul 2011

Forest & Bird wants unique West Coast environment saved

By ForestBird
Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) announced today its proposal for a reserve on the Denniston and Stockton plateaux to protect the last remaining habitat of several endangered species, outstanding landscapes and unique ecosystems. Forest & Bird proposed the new 5900 hectare reserve at a meeting of the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board in Hokitika today. “Our aim is to ensure this area is included in Schedule 4, protecting it from being mined in the future,” said Forest & Bird’s Top of the South Field Officer, Debs Martin. “The plateaux are among the rarest habitats in New Zealand, and we need to give them the protection they deserve.” The Denniston Reserve proposal would incorporate publicly-owned land on the Denniston Plateau, the upper Waimangaroa Gorge, the southern Stockton Plateau, and the Mt William Range. It would exclude active mine sites and the small town of Denniston. The Stockton Plateau totals 4,600 hectares in area, with the northern half owned by state-owned coalminer Solid Energy. Australian company Bathurst Resources is currently applying for resource consent to mine public conservation land on the Denniston Plateau. The Denniston and Stockton plateaux lie 600-1100 m above sea level northeast of Westport. The combination of climatic conditions and geology has created a complex array of ecosystems found only on this corner of the South Island. They are home to nationally endangered species, such as the great spotted kiwi, the secretive fernbird, and the carnivorous giant land snail, Powelliphanta patrickensis. Research in the past few decades has revealed the complexity of the ecosystems on the plateaux, and the failure of mining rehabilitation efforts to ensure the long term survival of threatened species, such as the giant land snail. “Recent opencast coal mines have destroyed extensive areas of the Stockton Plateau, laying waste to habitat for rare creatures – some of which are still being revealed as new to science,” Debs Martin said. “Current coal mine revegetation programmes do not replicate the habitats that were once there, and the long term survival of many unique and wonderful species is at risk.”