from The Daily Telegraph NZ
NZTA (a.k.a. Waka Kotahi) and its contractors have started destroying trees, habitats and nests without necessary permits, in the controversial Mount Messenger project that NZTA itself admits may kill and displace over 40 protected native species.
In internal advice obtained under the Official Information Act, the Department of Conservation identified that it had no power to authorize some of the harm to wildlife that the Mt Messenger bypass project would cause. Doubts were also raised about granting any permit unless there was a benefit for the wildlife.
DoCs response was to grant the application “in part” and turn a blind eye to inevitable harm to nests and other destruction and disturbance of wildlife that would normally carry fines up to $300,000.
This follows DoC turning an equally blind eye to earlier Wildlife Act breaches, even after NZTA contractors were publicly called out for using expanding builders foam to block holes and trap native bats in their nests on its preferred Mount Messenger route.
The Department of Conservations deference to NZTA raises important questions about the huge divide between its legal obligation and promises to protect our wildlife, and what DoC actually does for political expediency.
“When government doesn’t respect and apply the law, and when it overlooks breaches to give preferential treatment to itself, to the detriment of its main obligation – protecting our native species – we have a major conservation problem and also a major constitutional problem” says Sue Grey, Co-Leader of the NZ Outdoors and Freedom Party.
NZTA made application to the Development of Conservation for Wildlife authorities after the need for this was raised in other court proceedings for the controversial road project. The application is to “salvage, relocate or kill” over 40 native species, to build a road through the Maungapepeke wetland. The affected native species included brown spotted kiwi, North Island Robin, “critically endangered” long tail bats, Hochstetters and archie’s frogs, native skinks and an array of other native species, many of which are threatened and declining.
“I wondered how NZTA thought they could get authority for such serious destruction of wildlife” said Sue Grey, Co-Leader of the Outdoors and Freedom Party and is a high profile public rights lawyer. I had to ask DoC many times before I was finally given the information”.
“The Court of Appeal and NZ Supreme Court ruled on similar issues a few years ago in the Pauamac 5 “shark cage diving” case. Crown lawyers were in court with us. DoC is supposed to protect our native species not facilitate there demise”.
The information shows that DoC identified that it cannot authorise the destruction or relocation of nests or activities that have no benefit for wildlife, and that it’s a criminal offence if NZTA go ahead without all the necessary permits.
NZTA has previously been exposed for putting expanding foam into bat nests along their preferred route, apparently to try to deceive about the extent of harm their proposed roadworks would cause.
“Its made worse because this environmental destruction is avoidable” says Sue Grey.