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DoC Should Stick to its Knitting

18 December 2003

PR 262/03

DoC Should Stick to its Knitting

It is far from reassuring that the Department of Conservation (DoC) will take over responsibility for Molesworth Station when the Landcorp lease expires in 2005, says John Aspinall, National Board member of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

"Government does perhaps deserve some credit for resisting the incessant clamours of some green extremists to place the entire Station into the conservation estate. However, the reality is that New Zealand's largest farm will be under the control of a bureaucratic leviathan that has limited experience in farming and a poor reputation for land management.

"Transferring control from the proven management skills of Landcorp to the debatable management skills of DoC is a risk both economically and environmentally.

"Molesworth is New Zealand's largest farm. It operates on an efficient and profitable basis, contributing markedly to the local and national economy both as a farm and a tourist destination. It provides many employment opportunities on the station, and through the processing and export of its product. One wonders if the Government undertook any sort of cost benefit analysis before coming to this perplexing decision.

"DoC management risks compromising the farming, tourism, conservation and environmental benefits already put in place by Landcorp management. The Department of Conservation has not shown itself to be a good land manager or a good neighbour. Molesworth Station is very susceptible to woody weed growth and the current leaseholder invests around $1.30 per hectare each year on weed and pest control. 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.

"Unless DoC changes its policy markedly, or adopts a totally hands-off approach with Molesworth, the station could be inundated with broom in a very short time.

"A weed and animal pest explosion has happened on a number of properties under Department of Conservation control, and these inevitably encroach onto neighbouring properties where pest management problems are then exacerbated.

"The present integrated multiple use management practiced by Landcorp, under the guidance of an advisory steering group, was the only sustainable option. Income from farming paid for managing weeds and pests, and protected important areas of indigenous flora and fauna and historic sites. Giving control to DoC is likely to undermine Molesworth's strengths and fails to deliver on the Government's wish list of greater public access, conservation, and heritage protection," concluded Mr Aspinall.

ENDS

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