The announcement by the Department of Conservation that it will look to streamline the process for reclassifying or selling stewardship land it administers is excellent news, Federated Farmers says.
“We’ve been calling for the process to be made more efficient and practical for all involved for many years,” Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen said.
“The end result should be better protection of land with high conservation values, both on private and public land, as well as more secure public access to the outdoors, and provision for greater economic outcomes for the nation.”
DOC released a discussion document on November 19 and is seeking public feedback as it considers changes to the legislation. The goal is to speed up and simplify the reclassification process so land with conservation value is identified and managed appropriately, while land with very low or no conservation value can be made available for other uses.
Building on a number of requests over many years by the High Country Committee, in August 2020 Federated Farmers asked the Minister of Conservation to consider a concerted effort to identify land administered by DoC that was better suited to private ownership. This should offer greater ability for landowners adjoining the DoC estate to undertake boundary adjustments to achieve improved conservation/indigenous biodiversity and economic outcomes.
In our 2020 paper to the Minister, Feds said:
“Some current New Zealand land ownership arrangements are more an accident of history than a logical response based on its best use. A relocation of land use involving arrange of instruments including commercial leases, binding covenants and changes to core ownership provides an opportunity to achieve both improved conservation/indigenous biodiversity outcomes and economic outcomes…
“It is agreed that some private land has significant conservation value and outright purchase of parts of the land, or purchase of an “interest” in parts of the land, is considered by landowners as a more appropriate and equitable process than through legislatives mechanisms such as declaration of Significant Natural Areas, which potentially renders the land incapable of reasonable productive use.”
High Country Chair Rob Stokes also welcomed news of the review and said the main outcomes he wanted to see from the proposed changes are:
- Improved conservation outcomes.
- Increased employment through on the ground work, eg new fences for boundary adjustments and indigenous plantings.
- Reduced need for weed and pest control on low conservation value land held by the Crown, which would instead be managed by private land owners. For example, even light grazing can reduce control expenditure on plant pests such as wilding pines.
You can access the DoC Discussion Document, here.