But in a surprise move, a spokesman for the Depar' />

Support is growing rapidly to seek World Heritage status for Auckland's "unique" volcanic cones.

But in a surprise move, a spokesman for the Department of Conservation says that despite welcoming the support, it probably would not undertake the time-consuming task of preparing an application.

The Auckland City Council has joined the chorus calling for a nomination of the volcanic cones to Unesco, the United Nations organisation that bestows heritage status.

If the bid was successful, the ancient volcanic field spread around Auckland would join nearly 800 international treasures such as New Zealand's south-western national parks, including Aoraki/Mt Cook, and Egypt's pyramids in the World Heritage listings.

A city council committee voted to push for the addition of the volcanic cones, which include Mt Eden and One Tree Hill, to a list issued by DoC last month of six potential World Heritage sites.

"We will not let our crown jewels be overlooked," said Christine Caughey, chairwoman of the council's environment, heritage and urban form committee.

The volcanic field was significant for the country and the world, she said. "It has enormous natural heritage value because of its unique geological formation."

On DoC's list are Oamaru's cluster of historic buildings, Napier's art deco historic precinct, the Kermadec Islands and marine reserve, Kahurangi National Park and Farewell Spit near Nelson, Papamoa Pa complex near Tauranga and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

The Auckland conservancy in 1995 made achieving World Heritage status for the region's volcanoes part of its strategy.

DoC Auckland community relations manager Warwick Murray said at the weekend that the council's support for listing the cones was positive.

It was in line with a number of other groups, including the Auckland Volcanic Cones Society and the Auckland Conservation Board.

All the interested groups should now meet to decide who would gather all the information required for an application to Unesco.

"It's unlikely that we will do it. We don't have a particularly significant management role for the cones. While a lot of them are Crown land ... our role is relatively minor. The Auckland City Council has the management responsibility for quite a number."

Cones society chairman John Street said he was surprised by DoC's unwillingness to lead an application.

"My understanding is that it's got to be driven by DoC. I would think you would need to have Government support for something like that."

The department wants comments on its list of potential World Heritage additions by March 31.

Auckland's cones

* The volcanic field contains about 50 volcanic features, 23 of them within Auckland City boundaries.

* They are considered highly significant geologically - and culturally, because of the historic occupation of many by Maori.

* The last of the volcanoes to erupt was Rangitoto Island about 600 years ago.