Forest & Bird welcomes Labour high country policy

Press Release – Forest And Bird

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird today welcomed the Labour Party’s high country policy as a step forward for protecting some of our most treasured landscapes and endangered plants and animals. The Labour Party said it would stop the current …Tuesday, October 18, 2011 – Wellington

Forest & Bird welcomes Labour high country policy

Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird today welcomed the Labour Party’s high country policy as a step forward for protecting some of our most treasured landscapes and endangered plants and animals.

The Labour Party said it would stop the current tenure review process and buy key areas of land to complete a network of high country parks.

“We think this policy could lead to better protection of areas under threat from inappropriate development,” Forest & Bird’s Otago/Southland Field Officer Sue Maturin said.

Under tenure review, farmers holding Crown pastoral leases have been able to convert part of their leased land into freehold titles, while the remaining areas have been transferred to the control of the Department of Conservation.

In the past, tenure review has led to the creation of a number of high country parks, ensuring the protection of some much loved and ecologically important landscapes.

But because the lessees enter into the process voluntarily, most of the land returned to public control is less productive land lying over 800 metres above sea level and the more productive areas at lower altitudes have been freeholded.

“This does mean some very special landscapes and areas important for rare animals and plants have been freeholded, without any of the controls on intensive development that applied under the pastoral leases,” Sue Maturin said.

The consequences are obvious in the tussocklands of the Mackenzie Basin and Upper Waitaki Valley – containing 40 percent of New Zealand’s rare and threatened plant species – where large areas have been converted into irrigated green pasture.

“The Mackenzie Country is an iconic landscape, the closest place we have in New Zealand to a real desert. This supports unique plants and animals adapted to the extremes of heat and cold and the lack of rain,” she said.

Under the policy, a Labour-led government would explore creating a drylands park in the Mackenzie Country, a proposal long advocated by Forest & Bird.

“We believe the drylands park would be a valuable way of protecting at least some of the Mackenzie Basin from unsuitable development,” Sue Maturin said.

“As well as protecting a threatened landscape, and the rare plants and animals that live there, a park would create wonderful recreation opportunities. Opening up this Crown-owned land to the public would be a great step.”

ENDS

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