12 Jun 2011

Commissioner to investigate commercial use of DOC land

5:43 am on 12 June 2011

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says she will investigate commercial use of the conservation estate so that Government revenue from it can be directed towards pest control.

Jan Wright told the Federated Mountain Clubs 80th anniversary conference in Wellington on Saturday there are about 5000 concession holders using conservation land for commercial activities.

Those commercial activities earn the government about $13 million per year.

Dr Wright said the Department of Conservation is likely to grant more concessions for the commercial use of the conservation estate and the revenue from these concessions should be directed towards improving the estate, rather than supplementing DOC's base line funding.

She said possums, rats and stoats pose the biggest threat to the third of the country that is designated DOC land.

Dr Wright said a trust could be established to administer the money, which she believes would best be used for pest control using 1080.

Let's have conversation, says president

The head of the Federated Mountain Clubs earlier told the conference he was open to discussions about the commercial use of the conservation estate.

President Richard Davies said more commercial activity on conservation land like mining or windfarms will challenge the core values of the Federated Mountain Clubs but it's a conversation he's willing to have.

Such activity can change the nation's ecology, Mr Davies said, but it should be considered if it helps New Zealand meets its climate change objectives.

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson, who also addressed the conference, stressed the importance of conservation land to tourism, but added that conservation does not mean locking up land or avoiding extracting its value.