The National Cabinet has rejected a proposed New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy promoted by National's Conservation Minister Nick Smith and Environment Minister Simon Upton, according to conservationists.
The Forest and Bird Protection Society's Conservation Director, Kevin Smith, said this was a huge setback for National's two green Ministers who had been aiming all year for a pre-election launch of the strategy.
The draft Biodiversity Strategy was launched by Prime Minister Jenny Shipley in January this year and was an international obligation under the 1992 Biodiversity Convention.
Forest and Bird believed a lobby of development-minded National Ministers and backbenchers, supported by ACT and Federated Farmers, derailed the Biodiversity Strategy.
"This must be a major slap in the face for Simon Upton and Nick Smith whose Departments had taken the draft strategy around the country in an extensive consultation exercise earlier in the year," said Kevin Smith.
"The Biodiversity Strategy was to have been one of their big green announcements before the election to try and soften the hard-line image National has on environmental issues. Upton and Smith were worried National is widely seen as backing native forest logging, and favouring commercial development over conservation. Their plans to counter that anti-green image with the Biodiversity Strategy have turned to custard."
Kevin Smith said it was very disappointing that the enthusiasm for nature conservation shown by the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley at the draft strategy's January launch had gone cold.
"In January Jenny Shipley said that biodiversity was one of the Government's top ten new strategic priorities. She said the strategy was about caring for diverse ecosystems including lowland forests home to unique native birds such as the kiwi."
"But it seems, since then, her interest in conservation has waned as she has sent the loggers into the West Coast beech forests and now failed to back her green Ministers."
Kevin Smith said the key reasons for Cabinet's rejection of the draft strategy appeared to be opposition within Cabinet to any increase in conservation funding and an unwillingness to upset the anti-green vote currently being captured by ACT.
Mr Smith said the swing against conservation within National was a major concern to Forest and Bird.
"Even the Bluegreen ginger group within National seems to have given up the greening of National as a lost cause, as nothing has been heard from them for months."
"These developments should concern everyone, as New Zealand needs green conservative governments as well as green liberal governments."
"We have some of the world's most wonderful natural areas and many unique species of international biological significance. National is letting the country down by not backing a green future for New Zealand," said Kevin Smith.