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Tenure review is achieving conservation gains

24 August 2006

Tenure review is achieving conservation, access and farming gains

By Mathew Clark
Tenure Review Programme Manager, Land Information New Zealand

Tenure review of South Island high country pastoral leases is achieving a range of conservation, public access and farming outcomes for the Crown, the public and leaseholders.

Over 2 million hectares of South Island high country land owned by the Crown have been leased to high country farmers, who have exclusive and perpetual rights over the land, and have farmed it for 150 years.

Tenure review, a voluntary process under Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 (CPLA), enables leasehold land capable of sustaining a range of commercial uses to be freeholded. At the same time, areas with significant inherent values (e.g. nature conservation, historic, landscape, cultural, recreation and public access) can be restored to Crown ownership as public conservation land.

Tenure review under the CPLA has resulted in agreements for approximately 117,500 hectares of the high country to be opened up as new public land. A further 45,500 hectares of former of pastoral lease land has been secured through the Government’s Nature Heritage Fund, which offers an alternative to tenure review.

This is a net gain of over 163,000 hectares of new public lands for nature conservation and recreational activity since the CPLA was enacted. In the same period, about 162,000 hectares have been freeholded – amounting to a roughly 50:50 split between conservation and freehold land.

Of the 304 leases under the CPLA, 198 are involved in the tenure review programme, and 53 of these are at or near completion.

Because interest in the high country does not solely lie with farmers, tenure review is a consultative process. LINZ consults with the leaseholder, the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game and local iwi on each tenure review proposal. Preliminary proposals are also advertised in newspapers inviting the public to make written submissions.

As managers of the tenure review process, Land Information New Zealand is required under the CPLA to balance the competing views of all of those with an interest in the high country. This is no small task.

All the views expressed through consultation and public submissions are fully considered in the context of the CPLA. The analysis and LINZ consideration of public submissions is published on the LINZ website.

This Government’s objectives for the high country include securing public access and enjoyment opportunities, the progressive establishment of a network of high country parks and reserves, as well as fostering sustainability of communities, infrastructure and economic growth.

Tenure review is one of the processes that contribute to these objectives. It was acknowledged after the government adopted the high country objectives in 2003 that competing interests need to be balanced. Not everyone would get what they wanted – not all land capable of economic use would be freeholded, and not all land with significant inherent values would be returned to the Crown.

Another process for achieving the government’s high country objectives is whole lease purchase through the Government’s Nature Heritage Fund. Birchwood Station was acquired this way and became the core of the recently created Ahuriri Conservation Park.

It’s also worth noting that a separate contribution to the parks network came last year when the 180,000 hectare Molesworth Station was transferred from LINZ to Department of Conservation management.

Tenure review has resulted in diversified land use on freeholded areas. It has also substantially contributed to the protection of high country land with distinctive and rare ecosystems and habitat for nationally endangered species, and to the development of the Ahuriri, Eyre Mountains and Ruataniwha conservation parks.

Rural communities are gaining too, through, for example, new tourism opportunities made possible by tenure review. And the public in general benefits from secure legal access to the high country, and the recreational and biodiversity gains realised when areas with significant inherent values are added to Conservation land.

Land freeholded in tenure review still has to comply with the Resource Management Act 1991 and district and regional plans, which provide the means for communities to determine appropriate land use.

Until now, local councils have not had to focus on how these lands should be sustainably managed in the future.

ENDS

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