24 Mar 2011

DoC accused of putting business first

4:05 pm on 24 March 2011

The Department of Conservation is being accused of bending over backwards to satisfy the business needs of a South Island ski field.

The Director General of Conservation has agreed in principle to a land exchange that would give the owners of the Porters Ski Area Ld freeholding of land in the neighbouring Crystal Valley.

Blackfish Ltd would gain freehold title to almost 200 hectares of land.

But opponents say the deal sets a dangerous precedent.

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand says there is no net gain for conservation, as required in a land swap of this kind.

Canterbury-Aoraki Conservation Board chair Steve Lowndes says the department is taking into account business needs rather than conservation values.

He says the idea of the alpine village is an excellent one, but the board recommended the proposed land swap be rejected because the precedent being set has ramifications for the future.

Blackfish Ltd says freehold title is vital to its expansion plans, which it says could result in the creation of up to 1000 jobs.