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Conservation Deal Sees Protection Of Native Forest

Conservation Deal Sees Protection Of Lord's River Forest

Conservation Minister Nick Smith this morning signed a Heads of Agreement with the Rakiura Maori Land Trust Chairman, Mr Graham Lloyd, that will ensure the permanent protection of 3661 ha of virgin indigenous forest surrounding the Lord's River on the Rakiura/Stewart Island.

"The Lord's River is New Zealand's Amazon and its meandering path has created one of the most spectacular unspoilt landscapes anywhere in the world. The forest has been at risk of logging due to it being provided as economic compensation at the beginning of the century for South Island Landless Maori and it being exempted from the Forests Act. This agreement settles Treaty claims associated with changes in law, compensating owners for loss of economic opportunities, permanently protects the forest, guarantees public access and enables it to be managed as though it were National Park under the name of Tutae Ka Wetoweto Forest."

The Heads of Agreement between the Rakiura Maori Lands Trust and the Minister of Conservation on behalf of the Crown protects the area by way of covenant and special legislation. The area is divided into 31 sections and involves a settlement of $10.9 million (including GST) and has an estimated 4,000 owners. The agreement is subject to confirmation at meetings of beneficial owners and final approval by Cabinet.

"This Agreement is particularly significant in the context of recent announcements by Governments on SILNA lands. The Government has dropped plans to legislate over the top of owners to apply the Forests Act and instead attempted to reach agreement by negotiation. That agreement has been reached on the largest and most significant area of SILNA forests shows this approach can work."

"This is a win-win deal over a very difficult issue. These forests are the most valuable unprotected lands in New Zealand but have also been a source of so much historical tension given the shoddy way they were originally allocated. This deal is fair to the landowners as it enables them to retain ownership while giving a financial return, and yet protects the unique landscapes and rich biodiversity for all New Zealanders to enjoy." ENDS


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