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Strategic purchase for conservation park

Mon 31 May 2004

Strategic high country purchase for conservation park

Joint venture deal with high coutnry farmers to 10,oo hectares of spectacular high country landscapes

Almost 10,000 hectares of Clent Hills Station on the shores of Lake Heron have been purchased for the public in a co-operative arrangement initiated by three high country farmers, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

"This is an exciting strategic conservation purchase in an area steeped in high country legend. It links with a number of already protected properties to form the core of a potential public conservation park stretching through the Hakatere, Lake Heron and Arrowsmith areas of Canterbury," Mr Carter said.

Clent Hills covers 12,181 hectares from the shores of Lake Heron, 76 km north-west of Ashburton, all the way to Mt Taylor on the summit of the Old Man Range. It is located in a large and beautiful basin that lies close to Erewhon Station and across the river from Mesopotamia Station once owned by the famous novelist Samuel Butler. At the west end of the basin is the fortress of Edoras from the Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers.

"The great thing about this purchase is that it was initiated by high country farmers with properties around Clent Hills. They approached the Nature Heritage Fund with a proposal to work co-operatively to enhance the surrounding farms, while furthering conservation. I congratulate them on their foresight," Mr Carter said.

"The farmers have collectively bought about one fifth of the station, notably the areas of it that are the most agriculturally valuable. The government agency that purchases conservation land, the Nature Heritage Fund, has paid $2.55m for the remainder, including some fantastic tussock grasslands and most of the catchment areas surrounding Lake Heron Nature Reserve and Lake Emily."

Philip Todhunter, owner of Lake Heron Station and one of the three farmers involved in the deal, said working with the Nature Heritage Fund had proved successful.

"When Clent Hills came on the market we saw an opportunity to grow our own businesses and at the same time work with DOC to help create a large conservation area in this district. The outcome has been good for us and good for the public.

"We would like to acknowledge the contribution of the previous owners and managers of Clent Hills Station. Without their stewardship, many of the values being protected would have been less desirable to add to the conservation estate," Mr Todhunter said.

Mr Carter said the Nature Heritage Fund's purchase had been made as part of the government's Public Wildlands Programme, which was designed to protect a wider variety of New Zealand's most spectacular and valuable natural areas in public ownership.

"As part of this programme, we have been focussing on the South Island High Country where we hope to gradually develop a new network of parks and reserves which all Kiwis can visit, stay on and enjoy," he said.

"The Clent Hills deal demonstrates that by creating these parks we are not seeking to displace the farming community in the high country. We are working with them to locate the new economic and social opportunities parks bring alongside existing agriculture."

ENDS

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