Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): Yes, I do.
Eugenie Sage: When the Minister said yesterday that she was concerned that Auckland Council had allowed the felling of centuries-old kauri, is she also concerned that her Government plans to strengthen landholder rights, change the Resource Management Act, and further weaken environmental criteria in that Act?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: That is not what I said, and Resource Management Act issues are not my ministerial responsibility.
Eugenie Sage: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The functions of the Department of Conservation under section 6 of the Conservation Act include “to advocate the conservation of natural and historic resources generally:”. That is part of the Minister’s responsibility.
Mr SPEAKER: The member asked two questions. That is the difficulty. If she had asked one, I might have been able to help. But she asked two questions about comments the Minister said yesterday, and the Minister said: “I didn’t make those comments.” The question was, therefore, addressed.
Eugenie Sage: Does the Minister believe that it is acceptable under the Resource Management Act for private landholders to be able to cut down centuries-old kauri trees when less than 1 percent of the original extent of kauri forest remains in New Zealand?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: I do not support the felling of mature kauri trees. That is not something that, as the Minister of Conservation, I would ever support.
Eugenie Sage: Is the Minister comfortable that in the case of the Titirangi kauri forest, the Resource Management Act has totally failed to ensure the protection of New Zealand’s most treasured species and habitat on private land, and the Act is likely to be even weaker in future when the Government amends it to strengthen private property rights and strip out environmental criteria?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The Resource Management Act is not under my ministerial responsibility. However, I would say this: the changes, the reforms that we brought in around the Resource Management Act in 2009 have not weakened in any way or changed the protection of these trees. The laws that we have put in place are left to the councils and their communities to decide what it is that they want to do with trees. The Auckland Council, in this case, has the responsibility for this particular tree. I would urge it to re-examine what it is doing, and my colleague the Hon Dr Nick Smith has spoken with the Mayor of Auckland , who has undertaken to look at the options. He expressed surprise, which I share, that the Auckland Council chose to use its discretion not to notify around that particular tree. I would hope that that can be changed. The council is meeting tomorrow to have further discussions, as I understand it.