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NZ Government policy

PRIVATE STEWARDSHIP OR MORE PUBLIC PARKS?



Labour Government policy

Most of the high country farmland acquired by the previous government in tenure review was mid-altitude tussock grassland that was being grazed sustainably and was already well-represented in the conservation estate. Nothing has been gained from locking it away from productive use forever. Photo copyright: Antonia Steeg

The previous government had 10 stated objectives for the high country. The first six are derived from the Crown Pastoral Lands Act (CPLA) and the remaining four were based on Labour Party policy.

  1. Promote the management of the Crown’s high country land in a way that is ecologically sustainable.
  2. Enable reviewable land capable of economic use to be freed from current management constraints.
  3. Protect Significant Inherent Values (SIVs) on reviewable land by the creation of protective measures, or (preferably) by the restoration of the land concerned to full Crown ownership and control.
  4. Secure public access to and enjoyment of high country land.
  5. Take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
  6. Take into account any particular purpose for which the Crown uses, or intends to use, the land.
  7. Ensure that conservation outcomes for the high country are consistent with the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy.
  8. Progressively establish a network of 15-20 high country parks and reserves.
  9. Foster sustainability of communities, infrastructure and economic growth and the contribution of the high country to the economy of New Zealand.
  10. Obtain a fair financial return to the Crown on all of its high country assets.

In practice, the government emphasised some objectives and ignored others. At the top of its list was Objective 8, the creation of parks, and Objective 4, securing public access. Tenure review is the tool it has used for achieving these objectives.

From 2006, as the cost of tenure review grew, the Government increasingly focussed on a biased interpretation of principle 10 – obtaining a fair return on its high country assets – to force farmers to negotiate tenure review or grace-and-favour settlements on the Crown's terms.

Why did these policies concern the Accord?

Accord members are privileged to farm some of New Zealand's most magnificent landscapes. We accept that our fellow New Zealanders want to enjoy these landscapes too. We also accept that examples of New Zealand's unique native flora and fauna need to be protected.

Our objection is to the scale of the previous government's plans and their emphasis on using state ownership as the main way to protect conservation values.

Instead of establishing a handful of reserves in areas where endangered species need protection, it bought up farmland to create 22 major parks and reserves. About 1.3 million hectares were earmarked – a larger area than Fiordland National Park.

Most of the farmland being acquired by the government in tenure review was mid-altitude tussock grassland that was being grazed sustainably and was already well-represented in the conservation estate. Nothing was gained from locking it away from productive use forever.

From a high country farming point of view it meant losing most of the tussock rangeland that farmers need for summer grazing, making most high country farms non-viable. Many tourist and other economic activities associated with farming were threatened.

The creation of government-owned parks and reserves should not be at the expense of the families who farm this land sustainably. Nor at the expense of downstream jobs and communities.

National Party policy

The National-led Government elected in November 2008 intends to remedy many of the previous government's high country policies.

The party supports the principle of Tenure Review but believes the process has became largely discredited, with the former Labour Government’s agenda leaving many run-holders angry and disillusioned. In its 2008 Primary Industry Policy it says a new approach is needed to restore confidence in the process and ensure that the intent of the Crown Pastoral Land Act is fulfilled.

The party also believes that farmers have been granting sensible public access to their properties for generations and that it is not appropriate to try to force unrestricted public access across their land. It believes the emphasis should be on enabling public access through public land where possible.

It has promised to:

  1. Support the principle of Tenure Review but restore confidence in the process and ensure the intent of the Crown Pastoral Land Act is fulfilled. Implement voluntary, good faith negotiations between run-holders and the Government.
  2. Ensure that the setting of high country rentals is tied into the earning capacity of the farm property and is such that run-holders can continue to maintain the property at an acceptable level.
  3. Recognise that high country run-holders can be as effective in their stewardship of the land as the Crown.
  4. Improve the relationship between the rural community and the Department of Conservation by bringing greater accountability to DOC and encouraging private conservation.
  5. Uphold private property rights and place emphasis on enabling public access through public land where possible. Any access over private land should be gained through a process of voluntary negotiation, not compulsion.

The Accord has offered to assist the new government in the implementation of its high country and land access policies.


Questions about tenure review

Why should New Zealanders be concerned?

How should the high country be protected for future generations?

Aren't farmers just trying to extract more money from the Crown?

Effects on the Merino industry

Tenure review and land development

The social implications

Effects on the environment

The benefits of private ownership of tussock country