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Farmers protecting biodiversity ‘equivalent to two national

Farmers protecting biodiversity ‘equivalent to two national parks’

Following World Environment Day, Federated Farmers is to ask the Government to put protected areas on private land, such as QEII National Trust type covenants and Significant Natural Areas, on the same footing as the Department of Conservation (DoC) for council rating purposes.

“Since 1977, when Federated Farmers was a driving force behind the QEII National Trust's formation, well over 111,000 hectares have been voluntarily protected by farmers and landowners,” says Don Nicolson, Federated Farmers President.

“The scale and determination behind this is equivalent to around the area of Egmont and Tongariro National Park's combined. It’s that significant and it’s completely voluntary.

“Under QEII covenants, landowners are actively managing weeds, pests and maintaining fences to protect biodiversity. While covenants are voluntary, councils, under the Resource Management Act, have been requiring landowners to do more or less the same with Significant Natural Areas, or SNA’s.

“While many councils have policies for remitting rates on voluntarily protected land, it hinges on a successful case-by-case application and does not apply to SNA’s.

“Time has come to shed light on what landowners are doing and that could easily come by Government backing covenant holders and those landowners with SNA’s.

“That’s as easy as putting protected land on the same footing as DoC land for council rates. Alternatively, if DoC paid council rates on the same basis as everyone else, it would greatly help reduce the financial burden on the rest of the community.

“One member in the Wairarapa, for example, has placed over 40 percent of their farm into a QEII covenant. While 243 hectares of this 600 hectare farm is voluntarily protected, they have to pay council rates on the entire 600 hectares.

“This not only illustrates the massive role landowners’ play protecting biodiversity, but shows the unfairness of being required to pay rates on protected land they cannot farm.

“Zero rating protected land for council rates, is a simple and tangible way to recognise the huge benefit protected land provides to the wider community and biodiversity.

“With World Environment Day now passed for another year, good farm environmental management will be recognised on June 25, at the 2011 New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust’s Sustainability Showcase in Hastings. It’s time to recognise farmers for the vital environmental role they play,” Mr Nicolson concluded.

ends

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