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Farmers commended for Clent Hills protection

May 31, 2004 - Wellington

Forest and Bird commends farmers for Clent Hills protection

Forest and Bird today welcomed the Government's announcement that agreement had been reached with high country farmers to protect high country land on Clent Hills station adjacent to Lake Heron. Forest and Bird commended the farmers on their initiative in working with the Nature Heritage Fund to protect an area extending from the shores of Lake Heron to the 2,333m summit of Mt Taylor.

The deal has been has been welcomed by Forest and Bird Ashburton Branch chair and merino farmer Bill Hood.

"I am a farmer and also have great affection for the Lake Heron basin. This decision means that an extraordinary natural area and its wildlife will be permanently protected. We pay tribute to the surrounding high country farmers who have worked with the Nature Heritage Fund to create this new reserve," he said.

"The Lake Heron basin is an relatively unmodified glaciated landscape. A number of small lakes and tarns are located in this landscape with Lake Heron as the centerpiece," he said.

"The purchase will create a buffer zone around Lake Heron Nature Reserve. Lake Heron is home to New Zealand's largest remaining population of the endangered waterbird, the Southern Crested Grebe, which totals only 270 adult birds in New Zealand," he said.

"A National Grebe Survey in January 2004 found 99 adults on Lake Heron. They have almost disappeared over the last 100 years from their former strongholds, but they are holding their own in the high country," he said.

"Clent Hills is dominated by the rugged Taylor and Mount Somers Ranges. The 2,333 metre Mt Taylor is the highest point on the property.

"Protecting nature in a sequence from Lake Heron basin at 691m to mountain tops over 2000 metres high is a remarkable achievement," he said.

"This purchase will also open up a new area for public recreation. Access to the area from Mt Somers and up the Ashburton Gorge is by the Lake Heron road which runs along the edge of the new reserve to Lake Heron," he said.

"Access around the 6 km of lakeshore within the new reserve and into the Swin will be freely available. This will provide access to the adjoining Taylor Range and the upper Stour valley. A variety of recreational opportunities will be available including fishing, bird watching, tramping and mountain biking," he said.

Notes

In a partnership with the three surrounding high country farms, the Nature Heritage Fund has purchased approximately 10,000 ha of Clent Hills to ensure that land with conservation values is protected and that the cultivated flats and terraces can be managed as farm land.

The Nature Heritage Fund was established in 1990 and has been actively involved in protecting key high country natural areas in cooperation with high country lessees. The Fund protected the land that forms the core of the Korowai-Torlesse Tussockland Park in North Canterbury opened in November 2001. In 2003, the Fund protected the headwaters of the Hope, Doubtful, Kiwi and Boyle rivers on Poplars Station in the Lewis Pass. The most recent significant purchase in January 2004, was Birchwood Station (23,783ha) in the Ahuriri Valley, an area with huge natural values heavily used by fishermen and trampers.

In total, the Nature Heritage Fund has protected over 200,000 hectares in perpetuity.

ENDS

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