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Govt protects magnificent high country property

Government protects magnificent high country property

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Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister
Hon Steve Chadwick
Minister of Conservation

8 October 2008 EMBARGOED 10.30am Media Statement

Government protects magnificent high country property

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick today announced that the Government has purchased a major South Island high country property to protect it for future generations of New Zealanders.

Helen Clark said the $40 million purchase of St James Station, in North Canterbury, guarantees public access to this magnificent property and protects it from intensive farming and development.

“The Labour-led Government is committed to protecting and enhancing our country’s natural heritage, and to ensuring as many New Zealanders as possible can enjoy it,” Helen Clark said.

“St James Station is staggering in scale and in terms of its natural attributes. Its 78,196 hectares include the largest Crown pastoral lease in New Zealand. In recent years, just 13 per cent of the land has been used for grazing.

“It is located on three mountain ranges, and contains the headwaters of two major Canterbury rivers, the Waiau and the Clarence. It has eleven different tramping routes, the Amuri ski field, and great mountain biking, fishing, kayaking, horse riding, and hunting opportunities,” Helen Clark said.

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“The property’s almost untouched landscape is dominated by exceptional natural features such as glaciated valleys, glacial moraine deposits, streams, wetlands, lakes, and high altitude tarns.

“It also has red, mountain and black beech forests, manuka/kanuka and matagouri scrublands, numerous alpine species, at least five species of tussock, and a vast expanse of valley floor native grasslands. Some 430 indigenous species of flora have been identified on the property, and 30 native bird species have been sighted there.

“The station’s rich historic heritage will also be protected. Maori access routes across the top of the South Island ran through the station. Early European historic sites on the property – ranging from old homesteads to huts, woolsheds, and rabbit fences – are significant in the history of pastoral farming in the area.

“The property will join the other publicly-owned lands which surround it to create a cluster of public land which is world-renowned for its scenery, ecology, recreational activities, and heritage.

“Increased visitor numbers to St James will support the ongoing economic diversification in the high country. It will also boost North Canterbury and in particular the Hanmer Springs area as a tourism destination,” Helen Clark said.

Steve Chadwick said the purchase price for the property is in line with previous high country purchases. Most of the funding has come from the baseline budget allocated to the Nature Heritage Fund with additional funds from the budget of Land Information New Zealand.

“The Government has bought the property from the Stevenson family, who have owned the property since 1927. We have long dreamed of purchasing the lease so this magnificent property could become part of the conservation estate.

“The Government will take advice on the property’s long term status. It could become either a conservation park or a national park,” Steve Chadwick said.

The spokesperson for the Stevenson family, Mark Tavendale, said that the family is pleased that the Government will preserve the property’s unique landscape for future generations and increase public access.

“The family was concerned that an owner other than the Crown could have had a very different set of priorities for the land. That could have inhibited public access and resulted in the property being developed more intensively for farming purposes, which the family is not in favour of,” Mark Tavendale said.

The Crown will take possession of St James later this month.


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