United Future leader Peter Dunne has unexpectedly been appointed the Associate Conservation Minister.
The announcement came today after the National and United Future parties signed a confidence and supply agreement.
Dunne says he is looking forward to the new challenge presented by the Conservation role, and cites preservation of the endangered Giant Grey Snail as his main priority.
“Saving this animal from extinction is my number one task”, said Mr Dunne.
The Giant Grey Snail’s numbers have declined rapidly over the last decade, to the point where the species is now regarded as critically endangered.
The snail is particularly slow and sluggish, and is vulnerable to predatory attacks. It has only survived so long because its dull colour allows it to blend in with the environment and remain largely unnoticed.
The species leaves the relative safety of its home to mate every three years, and it is during this mating period that it is at most risk of being devoured by a predator.
Conservation experts have questioned Mr Dunne’s commitment to saving the Giant Grey Snail.
“It is too late,” said Dr Simon Tapwell, an expert in snails and other gastropods. “Action needed to be taken ten years ago. No matter what the government does now, it’s obvious that the Giant Grey Snail will be no more by the end of 2014.”
But Dunne has dismissed such predictions.
“They’ve been saying for years that the Giant Grey Snail is on the brink of extinction. And yet this resourceful little creature just won’t give up.”
Dunne says he is also committed to putting substantial resources into a sustained campaign of pest eradication.
“We have a lot of work to do to ensure creatures like the Giant Grey Snail are protected from predators. I’m referring to predators like the Silver-Tongued Snake.”
The Silver-Tongued Snake is known to prey on animals like the Giant Grey Snail and the Yellow-Tailed Poodle. However, efforts to eradicate the pest to date have failed
The Department of Conservation said in 2008 that it believed the Silver-Tongued Snake had been eradicated. However, a colony of the noxious reptiles was discovered just over a week ago.
Dunne says he is thrilled and excited to be able to pursue a lifetime passion.
“Conservation has been a hobby of mine for many years,” said Dunne.
“I have worked tirelessly towards conserving my status and privileges ever since I became a parliamentarian in 1984.
“I know more than most people about conservation. I have managed to ensure that, no matter who the government is, and no matter whether it leans to the left or right, I always get to sit at the top table.”