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High Country Review Needs New Direction

High Country Review Needs New Direction

High Country farmers will meet Lands Minister John Tamihere early in the New Year to resolve issues slowing down the tenure review process.

South Island farmers have formed a strategic group (ROD: not `alliance’ as it sounds like a certain political party) -- the High Country Accord -- to focus on property rights, the tenure review process and to provide feedback on the Government’s objectives for the high country. ``Debate has occurred in the process where land has conservation and economic values. This at times has left environmental and farming interests dissatisfied, Accord chairman Donald Aubrey said today.

Farmers believe there are large areas where the conservation and landscape values can be legally protected by covenants, while conservative grazing continues.

Farmers appreciate the High Country landscapes too as they work more closely in these areas than anyone else, Mr Aubrey said.

More than a fifth of New Zealand land is made up of High Country region and the Government has begun moves to freehold farms and protect treasured parts of the South Island in the tenure review process.

Of the 27 million hectares that make up New Zealand, over six million are in the High Country. About 2.5 million ha is farmed, the remainder is held as conservation land by the government.

South Island conservation land amounts to about to about 4.9million ha, most of which is mountain lands or forests, including over 1 million hectares of tussock grassland. Tenure review will result in up to 1.3 million hectares of tussock grassland areas east of the Southern Alps being added to the network.

There are 304 high country farms covering 2.17 million hectares of land. The leases are granted in perpetuity. Three farms have completed the process so far, which began in 1998.

The government has said that it wants to get out of the administration of High Country leases, while safeguarding the long term public interest in nature, conservation, recreation, landscape, cultural and historical values and provide a network of secure public access routes and parks.

``High country farmers deeply appreciate the scenery, nature and value of the High Country.

``Tenure review will recognise and protect significant natural landscape values. I see no need to halt the free-holding as farmers always seek to protect the landscape. After all, it is in their own interests.’’ Ends

Copyright 2003. Word of Mouth Media NZ

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