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Changes Essential To Protect Sth Is. High Country

Changes Essential To Protect South Island High Country

Crown lands in the South Island high country important for conservation and recreation should not be privatised through the tenure review process, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society says.

“Tenure review of Crown owned pastoral lease land should be the major chance to protect landscape icons and create new parks and reserves. Land Information New Zealand’s (LINZ) management of the process means it has become one of New Zealand’s biggest privatisation exercises,” Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage says.

“The Government must make major policy changes to stop the progressive freeholding of significant landscapes, mountain lands, river terraces, shrublands, tussocklands and lakesides which deserve to be part of the public conservation estate.”

Pastoral lease lands cover some 2.2 million hectares, nearly 20 % of the South Island and 10 % of New Zealand. Some 165 leases (54% of the remaining 303 pastoral leases) are now in the tenure review programme.

“Some land is being protected and transferred to the Department of Conservation (DoC). LINZ’s enthusiasm for getting rid of pastoral leases, however, means that it is too ready to bow to lessees’ wishes and freehold areas which deserve protection, in order to clinch an agreement with the lessee.”

Ms Sage said it was time the Minister of Land Information, John Tamihere, intervened in the process on behalf of all New Zealanders.

“Pastoral lessees are benefiting substantially by being able to freehold thousands of hectares of Crown land at little or no cost, with only limited benefit to the public in terms of additional conservation land,” she said.

“Former lessees can make windfall gains at the Crown’s expense by on-selling newly freeholded land for lifestyle blocks, grape growing, residential subdivision and other uses.”

“LINZ is failing to protect the public interest. It allows grazing to continue on tussocklands and shrublands, which should be destocked, and proposes freeholding lakeside areas with high recreation potential (such as around Lakes Pukaki and Wanaka). Public submissions on poor proposals are routinely disallowed.

“Major policy changes are urgently needed to stop the permanent alienation of significant Crown lands and to ensure the objects of the Crown Pastoral Land Act are properly implemented.”

“Tenure reviews on 30 properties completed by October 2002 resulted in a 60:40 split with 100,000 ha. being freeholded and only 69,000 ha. becoming conservation land. In Otago, recent proposals have averaged 65% of the land under review being freeholded to lessees, with 35% going to DoC and 29% of these new conservation lands being proposed for continued grazing and stock damage,” she said.

“LINZ’s preliminary proposals for 10 Canterbury pastoral leases (Nov. 2002) will result in an about 55% of the land under review being freeholded. Only 36,015 ha. is to be protected as conservation land.”

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