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Robson’s Appointment Good News For High Country

Matt Robson’s Appointment Good News For High Country

Hon. Matt Robson’s appointment as Minister for Land Information is welcome news for the South Island high country, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society said today.

“The Alliance’s foreign investment policies are a useful basis for new controls preventing the alienation of the high country lands, including pastoral leases, to overseas interests,” Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage said.

“Forest and Bird hopes that the new Minister will seek to implement Alliance policy through new directions to the Overseas Investment Commission that the sale of high country lands and pastoral leases is not in the national interest and should not be approved.”

The 360 odd pastoral leases in the South Island high country cover 2.5 million ha, 9 % of New Zealand’s land area. Individual pastoral leases embrace large areas (eg Canterbury’s 74,000 ha St James Station) and include mountain ranges, lakes, wetlands, large areas of beech forest and shrublands as well as tussock grasslands. “They have outstanding conservation, landscape and recreation values which are nationally important,” Ms Sage said.

“The sale of high country lands to often absentee foreign owners (eg the recent sale of the 1,151 ha Glencree Station in Marlborough to a USA family trust for a safari game park) can compromise conservation values and obstruct public access for tramping , hunting and fishing.

“The two most high profile Canterbury properties where access for hunting and tramping has been a problem (Glenhope and Lilybank) are both foreign owned,” Ms Sage said.
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“The low value of the New Zealand dollar means pastoral leases are a “steal” for overseas buyers wanting large lifestyle properties in spectacular landscapes as retreats or to establish exclusive safari hunting, fishing, mountain biking, fishing and other commercial recreation and tourism ventures.

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“Wealthy foreign owners can be reluctant to enter or proceed with tenure review, thereby frustrating the establishment of new tussock grassland parks and reserves in the high country,” she said.

Tenure review is the key mechanism for protecting tussock grasslands, shrublands and forest and other high value areas on pastoral lease lands. The tenure review process involves free-holding productive, modified lands in exchange for removing lands with high conservation and ecological values from the lease and transferring these to the Department of Conservation.

The Alliance’s November 1999 foreign investment policy seeks stronger controls on ownership or control of land. These include ensuring that “land having a special nature or character in a significant location is not owned or controlled by overseas persons” and that “traditional public rights of access for hunting, fishing, shooting and tramping are maintained”. The policy also seeks to ensure that land ownership or control is restricted to New Zealand citizens, permanent residents or companies or bodies with a minimum of 50 % New Zealand shareholding.

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