Tasmanian devils haunt New Plymouth plans

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 09/05/2012

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Allegations of "dirty public relations tricks" have surfaced in a trans-Tasman scrap over Tasmanian devils.

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust fears expansion plans by dairying business Van Diemen's Land Company – owned by New Plymouth District Coun-cil – will endanger Tasmanian devils.

When TCT went public with its concerns in New Zealand, Van Diemen issued a press statement stating TCT had ignored invitations to talk about their plans.

TCT director Peter McGlone yesterday branded that claim "dirty public relations."

Mr McGlone said they had already met with the company and sent two detailed letters outlining their concerns, but Van Diemen had yet to give them any answers.

Van Diemen is Australia's biggest dairy operation and has plans to add up to 20 dairy farms to its current 23.

Many of these farms will be on converted sheep and beef land but some will be on areas currently covered with bush.

At the northwest tip of Tasmania, the Tasmanian devil population on the company's Woolnorth properties is free of a deadly contagious facial tumour disease wiping out the animals in other parts of island.

TCT fears any clear-felling of forest land will threaten this ecologically important population. Mr McGlone said they had repeatedly asked to work with VDL to develop a plan that would maximise development while minimising environmental impact.

Yesterday VDL boss Mike Guerin said TCT did not fully understand the company's position and reissued its invitation to visit the farm.

"There may be an honest misunderstanding about VDL's position and its willingness to share information and we are keen to rectify that by offering the trust a visit to our farm and a briefing by our environmental advisers," he said.

Mr Guerin said VDL owned close to 22,000 hectares of land in in Tasmania's northwest with about 7000ha of that in native vegetation of various types.

At this stage it is not known how much VDL would seek approval to clear.

"We're very conscious of our environmental responsibilities and have not yet finalised documentation on vegetation and environmental impacts, and nor have we lodged any land clearance plans.

"One thing is clear, VDL is proud that the properties are home to a healthy population of Tasmanian devils," Mr Guerin said.

"And we're only interested in pursuing a whole farm plan that is sustainable and meets the needs of the company and its key stakeholders."

TRUST FACTS

Tasmanian Conservation Trust was founded in 1968.

Operates as a non-political organisation dealing with conservation issues.

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It has five staff and is governed by a council with 10 members.

Current Campaigns: It wants the Tasmanian state government to stop using 1080 poison. It wants a ban on recreational gill netting and recreational fishing with lines using more than two hooks. It works to protect forests on private land, improve forest practices and clearing controls.

- Taranaki Daily News

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