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DOC Just Got Bigger

27 August 2004

DOC Just Got Bigger

South Island High Country farmers are beginning to wonder if the Department of Conservation (DoC) has bitten off more than it can chew.

The government yesterday bought 8500 ha of the Castle Hill pastoral lease in Canterbury. This purchase will be part of a wider area of some 200,000 ha that DoC is responsible for in the Waimakariri basin alone.

South Island High Country Committee Vice Chairman Donald Aubrey questions why the government needs to own such vast tracts of the South Island.

“More than half the South Island's land area is set to be state owned and operated by DoC -- meaning the majority of the South Island will be run by the Minister of Conservation from his Wellington office.

“Local communities, neighbouring landowners, and district and regional councils will struggle to be heard by a management system not obligated to consider their situations. Also, unlike the previous owners, the government is not required to obtain resource consents for any actions it chooses to undertake.

And while Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc) supports transactions where there is a willing seller/willing buyer for property, one cannot help but keep in mind the bigger picture of the productive wellbeing of the South Island, Mr Aubrey said.

"Alarmingly, DoC pays no rates on its land. Each time it buys more land there is an added rates burden on the ever-diminishing number of ratepayers in the area.

"The removal of stock -- including merino sheep producing high quality export wool -- from DoC land sucks money from rural economies. Meanwhile, taxpayers have to fund DoC management of its vast estates and keep weeds, erosion, and pests under control.

"Over 40% of the South Island is already locked up in parks and scenic reserves, giving rise to concerns about how much can be closed off. Clearly it is now the taxpayer and not the rural landholder responsible for the cost of maintaining this land.

“If the government is so intent on developing parks, why doesn’t it buy more land near Auckland, close to our most heavily populated centre," Mr Aubrey said.

ENDS

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