New Zealand: In unusual letter, IUCN chief, WCPA chair express serious concern over PA mining plans

The head of the world's largest environmental conservation authority has taken an "almost unprecedented step" of criticising the New Zealand Government for its stance on mining the conservation estate.

Julia Marton-Lefevre, the director-general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), wrote to Prime Minister John Key last week to express the "serious" and "deep" concerns of her organisation.

The Government has proposed removing areas of New Zealand's conservation estate from schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act - a list of protected areas deemed to have special environmental accord.

Minister of Energy and Resources Gerry Brownlee is responsible for the Government's initial policy regarding a "stocktake of the country's mineral assets", which has advocated opening some of the conservation estate to mining.

A spokesman for Mr Brownlee said the minister was unable to provide a response to the IUCN letter yesterday, because Parliament was in a session of "extraordinary urgency" debating a Bill to increase the excise tax on tobacco.

World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) chairman Nik Lopoukhine joined Ms Marton-Lefevre as a signatory on the IUCN letter.

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