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Land Tenure Review failing the Public Interest

New Zealand Ecological Society

Media Release
31 August 2006

Land Tenure Review failing the Public Interest

Serious concerns have been raised at the New Zealand Ecological Society’s annual conference that the process of South Island high country tenure review is failing to meet conservation and biodiversity objectives.

A study undertaken by scientists at Landcare Research to be presented at the conference tomorrow (September 1), shows that the tenure review process is likely to lead to further loss of biodiversity. Delegates have expressed concerns that the outcomes of the process are not in the public interest and do not meet government objectives.

Tenure review refers to the land reform currently undertaken on Crown pastoral leases in the South Island high country. The reform affects about 20% of the total land area of the South Island (2.4 million hectares), and allows the 304 lessees to freehold part of the former Crown lease while the remainder becomes public conservation land.

In their study, Susan Walker and Robert Price, of Landcare Research, and Theo Stephens, DOC, use data from properties that have already completed the land reform to analyse whether national targets of biodiversity protection are being met.

Highest priority areas for biodiversity protection are in dry rainshadow intermontane basins and valley floors. These areas hold the greatest densities of threatened plants, but are poorly protected and nationally much reduced. According to the study, it is exactly these areas that tend to be privatized through tenure review, putting these important habitats at increased risk of loss and degradation. Areas added to public conservation land through the review are usually at higher altitude with habitats that are more widespread and at less risk of loss. As such, this privatisation process is not achieving environmental and conservation objectives of the Crown Pastoral Land Act (1998), the NZ Biodiversity Strategy, and more recent government directives.

Dr Susan Walker, Landcare Research, will present the results of this study on Friday morning (September 1). The conference is the third joint conference of the New Zealand and Australian Ecological Societies.

Conference Venue: Maclaurin and Easterfield Buildings, Kelburn Campus, Victoria University of Wellington.

Full details of the conference programme are available at www.nzes.org.nz


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