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Capacity package for High Country tenure review

Tue, 1 Jun 2004

Capacity package for High Country tenure review

A $79m package to fund the evolution of a new network of conservation parks and reserves from Crown pastoral leases in the South Island High Country has been announced by Conservation Minister Chris Carter.

"This package marks a significant commitment by the Labour-Progressive government towards properly resourcing tenure review, a process that promises to create new recreation opportunities for the New Zealand public and new economic opportunities for high country farmers," Mr Carter said.

In the package, Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) will receive an additional $15m over four years to fund the process of tenure review, and a fund of up to $46m to cover the costs of tenure review settlements negotiated with farmers.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) will receive an extra $18m over four years to fund DOC's involvement in tenure review, and more importantly, the administration of new conservation lands flowing from it, and from recent land purchases.

"Tenure review was developed in 1998 to unravel about 2.2m hectares of the some of the most beautiful and valuable land in the South Island High Country from out-dated leases between the Crown and about 300 high country farming families," Mr Carter said.

"High country farmers have been clamouring for changes to the leases for years because they restrict land use to just grazing. On the one hand, this restriction has recognised the environmental fragility of the high country, but on the other it has inhibited economic diversification of the region," Mr Carter said.

"Tenure review balances wider land use in the high country and the rights of farmers with the protection of nationally important environments, and the rights of the taxpayer.

"Through a voluntary process of negotiation a deal is struck enabling high country farmers to freehold a portion of the land they have traditionally leased from the Crown, in return for relinquishing their rights to some other areas of national conservation significance that have formed part of their lease. These areas are often returned to the public as conservation land," Mr Carter said.

"When the leaseholder and the Crown have agreed on a deal to dismantle a lease, two separate transactions occur. The leaseholder pays the Crown for their freehold land, and the Crown pays the leaseholder for the land that is being restored to full Crown ownership. This second transaction is what the $46m fund administered by LINZ is set aside for," Mr Carter said.

"In June 2003, a submission was presented to me from Federated Farmers' representatives, Ben Todhunter and Donald Aubrey, in which they sought an improvement to the pace of tenure review for the 200 odd farming families in the process or wanting to enter it.

"Today's package will ensure the government has the capacity to play its part in tenure review. It will significantly enhance the opportunities of farmers and the development of a network of parks and reserves, which I have begun to sketch out with the purchase of key high country stations like Birchwood in North Otago, and Clent Hills in Canterbury," Mr Carter said.

"Ultimately, how much tenure review takes place is in the hands of high country farmers who decide whether or not they will enter the process, and accept the deal they negotiate," he said.

ENDS

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