Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mark his words

Someone who gets a big mention in Kennedy Warne’s
article on Manapouri is Alan Mark, the Otago University
botanist whose assessment of the environmental effects
of raising the lake ‘revealed just how delicately poised the
lake-shore vegetation was, and that the consequences of
interfering were “a great deal more far-reaching and
unforeseen than the Ministry of Works engineers
suggested”.’ Forty years on, Mark continues to resist
what might be called economic overreach; just this month
he has been in the news for expressing astonishment and
revulsion at the idea, floated by energy minister Gerry
Brownlee, that Department of Conservation land should
be opened up to exploitation of its mineral resources.
Mark told the Otago Daily Times that he had written to
prime minister John Key warning him that, though New
Zealand was seen as a leader in the way it handled many
environmental and conservation issues, that image was
fast being eroded by proposals such as this one. 'We're
way back and losing ground fast,’ said Mark. ‘You could
almost despair.’ You could indeed—but we won’t, will we
—especially so long as Brownlee keeps bulldozing ideas
into the public arena. His latest is a highway through
Fiordland from Haast to Hollyford Valley, a road that, in
the view of Forest & Bird, ‘would drive a dagger through
the wilderness of southern South Westland.’ Says
Brownlee: ‘I'm personally supportive of it but it's not
something that the Government is actually considering at
the present time.’ For which read: it’s very much on the
agenda. Between Brownlee and transport minister Steven
Joyce, with the backing of Key and finance minister Bill
English, this government would happily pave paradise
and put up a parking lot.

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