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Molesworth Station to become high country park


Molesworth Station to become high country park


New Zealand's largest farm will be permanently protected as a unique high country park, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today.

Molesworth Station in South Marlborough spans an area the size of Stewart Island. The station covers more than 180,000 hectares of mountains, rivers, wetlands, lakes and tussock grasslands. About 7000 cattle graze on about a third of the station, which had been administered by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) as a Crown special lease.

"Molesworth is in Crown ownership but for decades farming needs have restricted public access to its vast and beautiful landscapes," Helen Clark said.

"In recent years this has begun to change. There has been a growing recognition that Molesworth has natural, recreational and historical significance beyond the economic value of its huge farming operation. Under LINZ management, recreational access increased and it is time the wider public interest in the station was acknowledged through its legal status."

From July 2005, management of Molesworth will transfer from LINZ to the Department of Conservation (DOC). The station will be declared a reserve and more conservation, recreation and historic heritage preservation will be integrated alongside the existing farming operation. Landcorp, which has run Molesworth's farming operation to date, is expected to renew its lease to continue farming the station.

"This is an exciting and momentous change for Molesworth,” Helen Clark said.

“The Government's decision will permanently protect a spectacular New Zealand landscape on the east of the South Island, where there are currently few public conservation areas. More than ninety per cent of parks and reserves in the South Island are west of the main divide.

“Molesworth is an extraordinary area for recreation offering opportunities for walking, mountain biking, trout fishing, tramping and horse-trekking. Currently, less than fifteen per cent of the station is permanently open to the public. I expect that under DOC management access will increase where it is compatible with farming,” Helen Clark said.

Helen Clark says Molesworth has significant tourism potential.

“It lies between the Marlborough, Kaikoura and Hurunui tourism areas, and is off the main route south from Picton. Although the Acheron Road, which runs through the station, was open for only six weeks last summer, Molesworth attracted 7000 visitors.” Conservation Minister Chris Carter says the biodiversity of Molesworth is hugely important.

“Molesworth is one of five hotspots for New Zealand’s biodiviersity. A high proportion of species in the area are found no where else in the world. Molesworth itself sports 77 plant and lizard species that are threatened with extinction, including one plant species that lives only in the station and no where else in New Zealand.

“Many of these species have evolved over aeons, surviving numerous ice-ages. The permanent protection of Molesworth as a reserve will enable DOC to increase the focus on protecting these species and informing the public about them,” Mr Carter said.

About 47,000 hectares of Molesworth will be designated as conservation zones immediately, and DOC will step-up an intensive programme of pest and weed control to restore them.

Land Information Minister John Tamihere thanked LINZ for their stewardship of the station.

“LINZ has done a good job working with Landcorp to develop Molesworth to the point it is now at. Not so many years ago the station was abandoned by farmers as a waste-land, riddled with rabbits. Careful management has turned that around.

“Landcorp's farming operation will continue under DOC management,” Mr Tamihere said.

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