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Environment Canterbury urged withdrawal of Richmon

3 August 2006 - Christchurch

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Environment Canterbury urged withdrawal of Richmond tenure review


Environment Canterbury has urged the Commissioner for Crown Lands to withdraw the proposed tenure review of the Richmond high country station on the shores of Lake Tekapo, information obtained under the Official Information Act shows.

A letter written by Environment Canterbury Chief Executive Bryan Jenkins to Commissioner of Crown Lands David Gullen, obtained by Forest & Bird under the OIA, shows Bryan Jenkins is deeply concerned by the threat the tenure review poses to natural environment, landscape and public access in the Lake Tekapo area.

Tenure review is a process in which high country farmers receive parts of leasehold properties as freehold land in exchange for other parts being protected in the conservation estate.

Land Information NZ has released its analysis of public submissions on the Richmond tenure review, which proposes freeholding about 6000 hectares of lakeshore land – including nine kilometre of lake frontage - from the 9567ha property.

Bryan Jenkins letter says Environment Canterbury has “significant concerns” about the Richmond proposal, considers it “falls well short of meeting the objectives and intent of the Crown Pastoral Land Act,” and urges its withdrawal.

His concerns outlined in the letter include:

- The threat to significant landscape values of the Richmond land as a prominent part of the Mackenzie Basin landscape and backdrop to lake-surrounds vistas. The proposal does nothing to protect the landscape’s unbroken and unspoiled vista from the lake edge to the mountain tops, or the lake edge.
- The proposal does not protect the range of habitats from lowland to alpine parts of the lease. Richmond’s mid-altitude terraces, dry foothills and lower outwash plains contain significant examples of indigenous biodiversity that is listed as at risk or chronically threatened. They include short tussock grasslands, montane, riparian and river terrace shrublands, and numerous tarns and wetlands.
- Changing to freehold ownership gives the owner opportunity to pursue a range of land uses that have potential to change the landscape and vegetation in ways that could “significantly alter or extinguish many of the inherent values.”
- Inadequate provision has been made to secure public access for the enjoyment of high country land, including access to and along Lake Tekapo.
- The recognition and analysis by LINZ of public submissions was inadequate.

Forest & Bird South Island Field Coordinator Eugenie Sage says Forest & Bird shares Environment Canterbury’s concerns that the Richmond tenure review threatens the nationally important tussocklands and landscapes of Lake Tekapo.

“Richmond is a missed opportunity to protect nationally important habitats and public access to this dramatic landscape. Land which has previously been owned by the Crown, on behalf of all New Zealanders, is passing into private ownership without any protection of its precious natural values which we should all be able to enjoy.”

“The Mackenzie District Plan has no controls on subdivision in the Rural Zone except for a narrow strip of lakeshore. This means the Resource Management Act is totally ineffective in controlling subdivision and associated development on the bulk of the 6000 ha to be freeholded.”

The proposal also placed the existing road to the Round Hill skifield and conservation land on the Two Thumb Range into private ownership.

Richmond is home to a range of native birds, including black stilt, black-fronted tern, black-billed gull, wrybill, white-faced heron, pied oystercatcher and New Zealand falcon, which may be threatened by uncontrolled development.

The Richmond tenure review proposal heightens Forest & Bird’s concerns that the tenure review process overall is putting too much land into freehold ownership, and is not protecting enough as conservation land.

Of tenure reviews completed so far, the split between freehold and conservation land has been 60:40, raising fears that conservation and recreation is being shortchanged by the process.

(A copy of Bryan Jenkins’ letter follows.

--

10 July 2006

Mr David Gullen
Commissioner of Crown Lands
Land Information New Zealand
...

Dear David

Tenure review - Richmond pastoral lease

The tenure review for Richmond lease is currently in the final stage of negotiating the Substantive Proposal. Environment Canterbury has some significant concerns about the tenure review process that has been followed in this case, and the response to the public submissions received. It is considered that the Substantive Proposal falls well short of meeting the objectives and the intent of the Crown Pastoral Land Act for the review of this land. Environment Canterbury urges the withdrawal of the Proposal and its reassessment in light of the concerns outlined below.

The following provides some discussion of the key areas for concern with respect to the process followed for this review:

1. The failure of the Preliminary and Substantive Proposals to meet the objectives and the spirit of Tenure review under the CPLA, particularly in relation to:
(a) A number of areas where the tenure review for the Richmond pastoral lease has clearly not achieved the objectives for tenure review:
S24(b): To enable the protection of significant inherent values by the creation of protective measures or (preferably) the restoration of the land concerned to full Crown ownership and control
Some key values for the Richmond pastoral lease are:
(i) The significant landscape values of the Richmond lease land as a prominent part of the Mackenzie Basin high country landscape and the backdrop to the lake-surrounds vistas viewed from Tekapo village and the main highways. It is the backdrop often featured in tourism publications. The key features of this landscape, as identified in the Conservation Resources Report, are its extensive nature, predominantly natural vegetation cover, the unbroken vista from the lake edge to the tops of the mountains and the “cohesiveness” of the landscape, unbroken by built elements. The Substantive Proposal contains no provision for the protection of lake-to-mountain-top landscape sequences, no protection of the lake edge environment, and no protection for the extensive and cohesive landscape as a whole.
(ii) The range and significance of indigenous habitats remaining from lowland to alpine parts of the lease. Of the greatest importance, and therefore of the highest significance for protection, is the rapidly diminishing range of biodiversity values of the mid to low altitude habitats. For the Richmond lease the areas of mid-altitude terraces, dry foothills and lower outwash plains habitats contain significant examples of indigenous biodiversity that is listed as “at risk” or “chronically threatened” on a national scale. These areas include short tussock grasslands, montane, riparian and river terrace shrublands, and areas of hummocky moraines retaining relatively intact native vegetation cover, and numerous tarns and wetlands. Very little of the biodiversity represented across the lower altitude slopes has been protected within the land to be restored to full Crown ownership by the Substantive Proposal.
S24(a)(i) To promote the management of reviewable land in a way that is ecologically sustainable.
The long-term nature of “ecologically sustainable management” requires the tenure review process to consider the opportunities for future land use and the impacts of these land uses on significant inherent values of the land.

It is not appropriate for the tenure review process to base the needs for management of significant inherent values on the current level of land use activities. Sustainable management means looking out long-term and anticipating potential issues likely to arise from changes to land status and new opportunities for land use. The change from Crown leasehold to freehold title over much of the Richmond lease provides the opportunity for the owner to pursue a range of land uses that have the potential to change the nature of the landscape and the vegetation cover in ways that could significantly alter or extinguish many of the inherent values associated with the land. This has been seen in other similar situations where freeholding land at the southern end of Lake Pukaki has resulted in that land very quickly being put on the market for development. Landowners will be tempted by the opportunity to make significant financial gain from subdivision and development of freeholded land. This is unlikely to achieve the ecologically sustainable management of those areas of land that contain significant inherent values - protection that has been offered by Crown control up to this time.

Including and recognising the management of water bodies and water quality as a fundamental component of ecologically sustainable management has been given very limited recognition through the tenure review process. Submissions raising this issue have been accepted in principle through the analysis of submissions but not provided for to any practical extent in the final proposal. The Richmond lease contains a number of water bodies, including rivers and wetlands that pass through, or are situated within, the areas of land proposed for freeholding with no provision for the exclusion of stock access or the protection of the riparian vegetation. There needs to be recognition of the inherently low nutrient status and present high water quality of these water bodies and long-term protection provided from the effects of current and potential land use activities

S24(c)(i) The securing of public access to and enjoyment of reviewable land
For the Richmond lease, there has been inadequate provision made to secure public access for the enjoyment of high country land. This includes access to, and along, Lake Tekapo and the ability to enjoy the lake area in the wider context of the mountainous surrounds. The current proposal has based lake access on an unformed legal road along the lake edge. This area is subject to erosion and the current access includes some areas where the legal road is already eroded away, and other sections following the cliff edge or shoreline which are neither safe nor reliable access. Tenure review needs to provide practical and durable access for future generations that recognises the limitations of the topography and other physical constraints. The loss of public access with the removal of marginal strips along the Washdyke Stream and the conservation area along Coal River further limits the opportunities for access from the lower lake road to the upper Crown land areas.

(b) The tenure review has not followed the guidelines approved by the Cabinet Policy Committee on 9 February 2005 which identified ten high country objectives for the management of Crown-owned land, and established priorities for the achievement of those objectives.

The Cabinet Policy Committee identified the promotion of the ecologically sustainable management of high country land and the protection of significant inherent values as the primary objectives of tenure review. The other objectives of tenure review can occur where they are consistent with the primary objectives.

This is of particular significance for the Richmond lease which contains a range of significant inherent values that are significant at local, regional, national, and arguably international levels. The tenure review process in this case has failed to give priority to the protection of these values and to the needs for the long-term, ecologically sustainable management of the land.

2. The recognition and analysis of public submissions was inadequate.
The level of analysis of many of the submissions was either inadequate or failed to meet the responsibilities for tenure review under the CPLA. This included responses such as:
- "The broad contentions made (by 9 submitters) that the proposal is not consistent with the CPLA......... are not accepted. Tenure review involves a process where each property is examined in a process involving a range of professional people specialising in their particular fields along with extensive consultation with the holder, Director-General of Conservation and other groups. The proposal is the outcome of that consultation." (p.16)
This makes the assumption that the “process” will always deliver. It also raises concerns as to the weight, if any, given to the subsequent public submission process.
- "It is felt that protection of landscape and other values will be met without the need for formal measures or retaining land in Crown ownership under the CPLA yet permit the continuation of extensive pastoral farming as an ecologically sustainable use." (p.18)
This is completely avoiding the statutory responsibilities under the CPLA s24(b) to enable protection by the creation of protective mechanisms; or (preferably), by the restoration of the land concerned to full Crown ownership or control.
It also makes the baseless assumption that future land use will continue to be extensive pastoral farming. The freeholding of the land will remove any constraint on the type or intensity of land use that applied to leasehold land.
- In response to submissions requesting extensions to the areas proposed as conservation areas, “…some changes will be made to the proposal such as expanding conservation areas CA1 and CA4 yet reducing the area of CA2.” and further on “… As a result of consultation concerning this point (the extension of CA2 south to protect low altitude fescue tussocklands and create a landscape corridor from lake to mountain top) in determining appropriate boundaries, it was decided that retention of the high altitude mixed tussock (i.e. land adjacent to CA4) was of greater importance resulting in a reduction of CA2 to the lake edge side of Lilybank Road.” (p.24).
This result achieved neither the landscape corridor nor the protection of the chronically threatened low altitude tussocklands – in fact the area to be protected of this most significant foothill habitat (CA2) was reduced from the original Preliminary Proposal area. The basis for deciding the relative importance of the two areas was not explained in the analysis.
- “The call made by several submitters for Washdyke Stream and its margin to be set aside as conservation area or fenced to protect water quality is not accepted as being necessary." (p.18)
and
- “Consequently (as a result of submissions requesting protection of smaller waterways) waterways were further investigated to see if others would qualify for indicative marginal strips……….(or) marginal buffer strips to protect against degradation of water quality. As a result it was established that no other streams would qualify….. and it is felt that buffer strips would not be required.” (p.21)
No reasons were given to support either of these decisions. No recognition was given of the impacts of land use on water quality, or the importance of maintaining the high water quality of these streams. In fact the Substantive Proposal has removed the protection originally offered to the sections of Coal River and Washdyke Stream passing through freehold title, again with no reasons provided for this decision.

The recommendation to transfer responsibility for management and protection of these values to other legislation (such as regional and district plans under the RMA) is neither appropriate, nor is it likely to be effective. The CPLA has its own objectives for protection that should be met through the tenure review process. The likelihood of achieving long-term protection of values will be greatly reduced by taking land out of Crown ownership and subjecting it to the vagaries of the district planning process where the status of land is reviewed every ten years and plans are subject to plan changes at any time of their life. District planning processes can vary with the changing politics and composition of a Council in any three year period. This can result in outcomes that will not necessarily be in the best interests of all New Zealanders. The most secure form of long-term protection will be achieved by retaining the land in Crown ownership.

3. There appears to be significant variance in the interpretation of the requirements of the CPLA by the different consultants.
There does not appear to be any evidence of consistent standards followed for the preparation of tenure review proposals, and no ability for the public to question the final decisions made. The degree to which the objectives are met for tenure review vary considerably between the different consultant agencies. If the public submissions are not perceived to be taken due consideration of, there is no formal avenue for the public to contest the decisions made. This does not sit well with the spirit of the tenure review process.

Recommendation
For the reasons set out above, Environment Canterbury considers that the Richmond Substantive Proposal should be withdrawn and a review of the process undertaken in the light of the responsibilities under the Crown Pastoral Land Act, and the decision of the Cabinet Policy Committee for setting the overall objectives and the priorities for tenure review.

Our preference is for land of significant inherent value to be retained in full Crown ownership and control as the only secure and ongoing form of protection.

A less preferred, second option, would be the use of protective mechanisms over freehold land to provide recognition of the important nature of the land and a level of protection that would restrict those land uses most likely to compromise the values in the future.

Environment Canterbury would be happy to discuss further any of the issues raised here, or to contribute to any discussion or review of the tenure review process.

Yours sincerely

Dr Bryan Jenkins
CHIEF EXECUTIVE
cc Mr Paul Jackson, Manager Crown Properties Management, Land Information New Zealand
Mr Mathew Clark, Relationship Manager, Land Information New Zealand


ENDS

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