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Crown agency attends anti-Govt strategy meeting

Crown agency attends anti-Government strategy meeting

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), the government department charged with processing high country tenure reviews, is today attending a strategy meeting in Christchurch, arranged by a group of lessees who are running a campaign against the Government's policy of creating new conservation parks.

"Forest and Bird hopes that LINZ is not seeking to undermine a Government policy that is aimed at creating new conservation parks for all New Zealanders to enjoy," Forest and Bird's Dunedin Field Officer Sue Maturin said.

"As the neutral adjudicators in tenure review, LINZ must be scrupulous to avoid any suggestion of bias. LINZ should be particularly careful when it is well known that the High Country Accord has been set up to seek a change in government policy on tenure review," she said

"It was a lapse of judgment for LINZ to attend the 'High Country Accord' strategy forum. This meeting is designed to promote the economic interests of lessees at the expense of conservation values on Crown-owned land. The organizers have deliberately excluded public interest groups and professional organisations with an interest in the high country," she said.

Although LINZ was invited to the strategy forum run by the pastoral lessee lobby, representatives of the Department of Conservation were not invited. Forest and Bird, the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA), and Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of New Zealand (CORANZ) have also been denied entry.

High Country Forum representative Val Waldron wrote to eminent botanist and Forest and Bird executive member Professor Alan Mark denying access to the forum on the grounds it was intended to "help lessees and their supporting industries formulate a go forward position" with regard to tenure review.

"LINZ are supposed to administer the Crown-owned pastoral leases, including making statutory decisions about the free-holding of pastoral leases in the tenure review program. The Crown's tenure review process must remain transparent if it is to remain credible," she said.

Sue Maturin said that LINZ had recently hosted a meeting between representatives of the High Country pastoral lessees, the High Country Accord and public conservation, recreation and landscape groups with a view to finding common ground.

"Everyone agreed that all involved in the tenure review process needed to share information and perspectives openly. That meeting was the kind of meeting LINZ should be involved in, not strategy meetings to promote the economic interests of high country lessees," she said. NOTES Objectives of the High Country Accord given in the Forum promotion The High Country Accord represents a group of farmers who lease Crown-owned land in the South Island high country and has the backing of Federated Farmers. According to promotional information associated with today's forum: "Its main objective is to seek a change in government policy relating to the Land Tenure Reform Process."

Excerpts from the High Country Accord Invitation to attend the forum

"The focus of the High Country Accord and the forum is the decision of the government to acquire 1.3 million hectares of high country pastoral lease (much of it sustainably farmed tussock grassland) for inclusion in a network of proposed high country parks and reserves."

Text from email turning down Professor Alan Mark's application to attend the forum Thank you for your interest in attending The High Country Heritage forum on the 1st of June 2004. I am sorry to advise that the forum is by invitation only. The forum is intended to help lessees and their supporting industries formulate a go forward position. There will be future opportunities where we look forward to debating our perspectives on the land tenure reform process with you. Yours faithfully, Val Waldron.

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