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Ahuriri Conservation Park – Stunning Achievement

Ahuriri Conservation Park – Stunning Achievement

Ahuriri Conservation Park is a stunning new high country park with its glaciated mountain peaks, beech forests, valley floor wetlands and easy public access to the exceptional landscapes of the braided river valley, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society says.

Conservation Minister Chris Carter, opened the park today. Forest and Bird congratulated the Minister, the Department of Conservation, the Nature Heritage Fund and the former lessees for its creation.

“The park with its many opportunities for easy day walks, tramping, climbing, fishing, mountain-biking and photography is a magnificent place to enjoy the peace and grandeur of being in a mountain valley,” Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage said.

“The Ahuriri River system and associated wetlands are an important habitat for threatened species such as the black stilt and black-fronted tern, and other braided river birds such as banded dotterel. The valley is ecologically important because of the sequence of intact vegetation from valley floor wetlands through beech forests to alpine shrub and grasslands,” she said.

“The Ahuriri Park highlights the value of the Nature Heritage Fund purchasing whole pastoral leases. The Fund’s purchase of the 23,783 ha Birchwood pastoral lease, in the upper Ahuriri Valley, was central to establishing the 49,000 ha. park.

“The Nature Heritage Fund has been an extremely cost effective way of achieving major conservation gains in the high country, compared to the expensive and cumbersome process of tenure review. Since 1994, the Nature Heritage Fund has protected more than 94,500 hectares of high country on seven pastoral leases for approx $20.6 million or $218 per hectare,” Ms Sage said.

“In a similar period, tenure review has restored only 49,213 ha of high country land to full Crown ownership as conservation land. The Crown paid $12 million directly to the lessees as equalisation payments. In addition, there are major costs in funding LINZ’s administration of the tenure review process.

“More high country parks could be created more quickly if the Government substantially increased the Nature Heritage Fund’s budget,” she said.

“Pastoral lease purchases by the Fund are likely to deliver faster and more strategic protection of tussock grasslands, forests, shrublands and wetlands, for the public to enjoy, than tenure review.

“In tenure review, the areas deserving protection can be significantly compromised because of LINZ’s low valuation of the Crown interest, the whittling down of recommended conservation areas during negotiation with lessees, and LINZ’s rejection of public submissions,” she said.

Tenure review on the Ben Avon and Quailburn properties contributed around 10, 300 ha or one fifth of the Ahuriri Conservation Park with another 13,710 ha being existing conservation land.

“The Ahuriri Park belongs to the people of New Zealand to cherish and enjoy forever. Over the coming months, Forest and Bird will be outlining further proposals for high country parks to add the network of public conservation lands.”


The Nature Heritage Fund has an annual budget of approximately $10 million to acquire land for conservation throughout all of New Zealand.

The purchase of Birchwood Station is one of several initiatives by the Nature Heritage Fund, which have been, or will be central to the creation of high country parks.

The Fund made a major contribution to the creation of the first tussockland park, Korowai/Torlesse Tussockland Park near Porter’s Pass (with the purchase of 9,183 ha in the Avoca, Adams and Ben More blocks). Its purchase of the 59,000 ha Clarence Reserve is important to a proposed Kaikoura Ranges Conservation Park. The Fund’s joint venture purchase with private individuals of Poplars Station is adjacent to Lake Sumner Forest Park, while its Clent Hills purchase is the nucleus of Forest and Bird’s and FMC’s proposed Upper Rangitata/Arrowsmith Range/Lake Heron park. More recently it has completed a joint-venture purchase of Castle Hill pastoral lease with its distinctive limestone outcrops adjacent to the Christchurch -Arthur’s Pass highway.

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