The New Zealand high country is a jigsaw of public conservation land, crown land and freehold land. As to 2019, 1.2 million ha crown land are leased to 171 pastoral lease properties for the purpose of grazing. This is just under 5% of New Zealand’s total land area. Statutory processes governing pastoral lease land are the Land Act 1948 and the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998. Part 2 of the latter Act enabled the Commissioner of Crown Lands to review the status of land held under pastoral lease, by means of a process called tenure review.
Since the Crown Pastoral Land Act was passed in 1998, 125 of 303 Crown pastoral leases have completed tenure review. As of November 2017, 345,940 hectares, or 53 percent, of tenure review properties, had been freeholded. Several leases have been purchased entirely by the Nature Heritage Fund. In all, 11 new conservation parks have been created. (Source: Newsroom)
In February 2019 the New Zealand government announced the end of tenure review, which will involve changes to the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998. Shortly afterwards, Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage launched a consultation on proposed changes to the Crown’s management of pastoral land in the South Island high country. The consultation is centered around a discussion document, “Enduring stewardship of Crown pastoral land“, and closed on 12 April 2019.
FMC wrote a submission on the proposed changes to the management of pastoral land. Our submission is summarized in the following points:
- Since the present Crown pastoral lease system was established more than 70 years ago, appreciation of the high country’s extensive values, including its intrinsic worth, has changed and deepened considerably.
- FMC asks that the economic term ‘natural capital’ should not be used in relation to Crown pastoral land management, since it is too reductive and fails to encompass the actual values of the land.
- FMC recommends that a purpose be added to the Land Act 1948, and that the purpose be for the high country to be managed for maintenance and improvement of ecological and landscape integrity.
- Accordingly, the process of tenure should be replaced by a process of land purpose review. The Department of Conservation, the Nature Heritage Fund, the Walking Access Commission, and regional Fish and Game councils should have mandated roles in the process of land purpose review.
- Beds of qualifying lakes and rivers should be removed from leases and transferred to the Department of Conservation’s jurisdiction. Marginal strips should be created along qualifying lakes and rivers.
- Decision-making on discretionary actions should be in accordance with the statutory purpose of maintenance and improvement of ecological and landscape integrity as above. A discretionary actions notification system needs to be established.
- At present, there is no stock-take of permitted discretionary activities, of their impact on the land, or of the status of leased land. While we acknowledge that this would be resource intensive and expensive, a system for monitoring and reporting on the Crown pastoral estate needs to be implemented.
FMC’s full submission can be downloaded here.