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Historic Mesopotamia land protected for the future

Historic Mesopotamia land protected for the future

i>Credit: GILBERT
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From Mt Sinclair looking south west across the Bush Stream catchment into the heart of Mesopotamia, with the Two Thumb Range beyond. Credit: GILBERT VAN REENEN WWW.CLEANGREEN.CO.NZ

Hon David Parker
Minister for Land Information
Hon Steve Chadwick
Minister of Conservation

7 April 2008 Media Statement
Historic Mesopotamia land protected for the future

The tenure review of South Canterbury’s historic Mesopotamia station has been finalised under a tenure review agreement announced today by Land Information Minister David Parker and Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick. The station is currently a Crown pastoral lease, and tenure review is a voluntary process.

Conservation land from the station’s tenure review is pivotal to the proposed Two Thumb Conservation Park between the Rangitata River and Lake Tekapo. The park will adjoin the Hakatere Conservation Park which was opened last year.

“One highlight of this agreement is that an important 25 kilometre gap will be filled in the Te Araroa walking trail that is being established over the length of the country,” David Parker said.

“Renowned author and farmer Samuel Butler established the station in 1860, and made its magnificent high country landscape famous in his novel Erewhon. More recently, it has been given international exposure by the Lord of the Rings films. This landscape will now be protected in perpetuity with open access to all.”

Of Mesopotamia’s 26,115 hectares, 20,863 hectares will become public conservation land. This area has high natural values, but is of low productivity and sensitive to grazing pressure. A further 5252 hectares of productive developed river flats and rolling country will be freeholded to the leaseholder, subject to covenants over 1487 hectares to protect biodiversity.

Steve Chadwick said major conservation gains have been achieved. “Areas being protected feature alpine screes and stonefields, herbfields, tall tussock grasslands, shrublands, beech forest and regionally rare upland tōtara. Threatened birds are present in the area, including blue duck/whio, New Zealand falcon/kārearea, kea, black-fronted tern/tara and the wrybill/ngutu parore.

“The new conservation land will also be greatly valued for its many recreational opportunities, including tramping, mountaineering, hunting, four wheel driving, horse-trekking, nature study and photography.”

The pastoral lease over the property has been held by the Prouting family since 1945.
“The family is passionate about this stunning area and we thank them for their stewardship of the land, which has spanned three generations,” the Ministers said.

See background information below, and maps and photographs attached.




Background Information:

* The Mesopotamia tenure review outcome announced today was negotiated with the leaseholder – the Prouting family – by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), in consultation with the Department of Conservation (DoC). The cost to the Crown was $4,660,000. The new public access is expected to be available this Spring.

* Mesopotamia is located in the headwaters of the Rangitata River, and comprises mountainous terrain (including four mountain ranges), easy rolling downs and large river terraces. The station was named by Samuel Butler from the Greek words mesos and potamos, meaning ‘the land between two rivers’ originally describing the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (in modern Iraq). Butler farmed the area from 1860 to 1864. Samuel Butler’s 1872 novel Erewhon is set around the area.

* Erewhon is now the name of an adjoining pastoral lease, and links to Butler and early Canterbury settlement are evident in other names of places and geographical features. The tenure review outcome will provide access to the gravesite of Dr Andrew Sinclair near the Rangitata River. Dr Sinclair was a former Colonial Secretary (head of the early New Zealand civil service) who drowned crossing the river in 1861. Mesopotamia’s Sinclair Range is named after him.

* The four wheel drive access that is being provided across freeholded land and Crown riverbed to the confluence of the Havelock and Rangitata rivers will facilitate foot access further up the Havelock for a range of recreational activities on existing conservation land.

* The proposed route for the Te Araroa walking trail between the Rangitata and Lake Tekapo is via the Bush Stream, the western side of Crooked Spur and Stag Saddle. DoC is also planning to open access up over Bullock Bow Saddle from Forest Creek, which will provide a link to the Te Araroa trail.

* As a result of the Mesopotamia tenure review, there will be sufficient conservation land available in the Two Thumb Range area for DoC to progress a proposal to create the Two Thumb Conservation Park. Public comment on the proposal will be sought in May.

* The Prouting family has been granted a 20 year tourism, filming and photography non-exclusive concession over the new conservation land for the continued diversification of the family business. The family has also been granted a 20 year concession allowing grazing on 619 hectares of lower lying conservation land above the Havelock River.

* Tenure review of a pastoral lease is a voluntary negotiation between LINZ on behalf of the Crown and the leaseholder that results in the transfer of land with significant biodiversity, recreation, historic and public access values to DOC management, and the freeholding of land capable of productive use to the lessee. LINZ is the government agency responsible for managing South Island high country pastoral leases, and for tenure review negotiations.

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