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Clark Insults High Country

Clark Insults High Country

Prime Minister Helen Clark has delivered a low blow to high country farmers in her opening statement to Parliament, said Tom Lambie, President of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

Ms Clark said New Zealand's clean, green and beautiful image "needs more than rhetoric to be sustained", adding: "And that's why we are giving priority to establishing a network of high country parks and reserves which has already led to the permanent protection of Molesworth Station and to the acquisition of Birchwood Station".

Mr Lambie said that high country farmers would resent the description of the High Country's clean, green beauty as "rhetoric".

"There is nothing rhetorical about it. The high country is clean, green and beautiful. That is precisely the reason the government wants to take back the high country from its leaseholders for a string of parks and reserves," he said.

"High country farmers have an impressive record of maintaining New Zealand's clean, green and beautiful image along the backbone of the South Island. This land is the farmer's lifeblood. It is too precious and fragile to be exploited. High country farmers can only profit from the land by maintaining a healthy resource," he said.

"Farmers have a responsibility to be good stewards of their land for future generations. The reason that the government wants to take over perennial pastoral leases for a string of parks in the high country is because the land has been well managed and its natural beauty protected."

Mr Lambie said that the prime minister seems to have forgotten that the government paid $10 million for Birchwood Station in recognition of the true value of a farm maintained by private management.

It has yet to be proven that the Department of Conservation (D0C) will be as good a manager of these significant tranches of land. For example, Molesworth Station is susceptible to woody weed growth and the current leaseholder invests around $1.30 per hectare each year on weed and pest control, he said.

"DoC’s typical expenditure on weed and pest control is less than one sixth of that figure – well short of the investment that would be required to prevent broom, gorse, hieracium, wilding pines and other woody weeds from becoming rampant."

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