National parks need not be govt-owned, MP says

National would look to provide high country national parks that took advantage of forests and mountains for both recreation and conservation purposes, but they would not necessarily be government owned, National MP Nick Smith said yesterday.

Dr Smith, the party's conservation and climate change spokesman, was in Dunedin for a debate on Sunday and was yesterday visiting a solar water-heating business in South Dunedin as well as the owner of an electric car.

When asked whether it would carry on with Labour's plan to establish high county national parks, Dr Smith said the party would consider using conservation and recreation covenants to protect the space.

This follows a High Court judgement last month which ruled against the Crown for reneging on an offer of a special lease to a group of high country farmers within a conservation area in the Hawkdun and Ida ranges in Central Otago.

Dr Smith said farmers would not be bullied by the Department of Conservation, and he supported the idea of land owners' groups being consulted, rather than antagonised, by Doc.

Dr Smith said although he had been in Parliament since 1990, he believed he had fresh ideas, particularly when it came to combining economic growth with good environmental policies.

He would also be promoting electric cars, air quality standards, biofuels as well as solar water heaters, including increasing the government grant to $1000 and removing the requirement for a building consent.


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