National panels of independent experts assess stewardship land areas and provide recommendations on land classification to the Minister of Conservation.

Scope of the panels

The national panels were announced in May 2021 by the Government as part of measures to streamline the stewardship land reclassification process.

Starting in the Northern and Western South Island, the panels will carry out technical assessments of the conservation and cultural values of stewardship land areas. This includes taking into consideration any commitments to international agreements, such as stewardship land areas being within World Heritage Areas.

They will provide recommendations on future land classifications of stewardship land to the Minister of Conservation.

Each panel is made up of non-partisan representatives with technical expertise in ecology, earth sciences, landscape, recreation, heritage and mātauranga Māori.

Members are appointed by the Minister of Conservation and have an advisory role. They hold no statutory decision-making powers.

It will take the panel eight months per region to commence their process and provide recommendations to the Minister of Conservation on the revised land classifications.

There will be opportunities for the general public to provide feedback on draft reclassification recommendations through a public consultation process.

The panel’s work programme will be adjusted should businesses apply to carry out mining activity on stewardship land. The panels will assess the land being applied for to ensure DOC has the most up to date ecological and cultural information about the sites. This will help inform the processing of the application.

Tangata whenua involvement

A Ngāi Tahu appointed Mana Whenua Panel has been established to provide information on mahika kai (natural resources practices), mātauranga Māori (knowledge) and Ngāi Tahu interests in relation to stewardship land within its Takiwā.

The Mana Whenua Panel will work alongside the national panels to support them to make recommendations on revised land classifications for stewardship land areas.

DOC staff will speak with tangata whenua – iwi, hapū and whānau in other regions to understand how they wish to be involved in the stewardship land reclassification process when it takes place within their rohe.

Panel members

The first two panels will assess land in the Western South Island and Northern South Island.

Western South Island

Chairperson (acting): Mr Neil Clifton


  • Dr William (Bill) Lee
  • Ms Jo Breese
  • Ms Katharine Watson
  • Mr Philip Blakely
  • Dr Marama Muru-Lanning

Northern South Island

Alternating chairperson: Hon Christopher Finlayson and Hon Philip Woollaston


  • Mr William Shaw
  • Mr Geoff Canham
  • Ms Laura Coll McLaughlin
  • Ms Di Lucas
  • Ms Mary O’Keefe

Ngāi Tahu Mana Whenua Panel

Chairperson: Mr Francois Tumahai, Chair of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae


  • Mr Paul Madgwick, Chair of Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio
  • Mr Maurice Manawatū, Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura Cultural Pou
  • Ms Gail Thompson, Representative of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

More information

Terms of reference for the independent expert national panels (PDF, 170K)

Reclassification of Stewardship Land in the Ngāi Tahu Takiwā Agreement (PDF, 1,165K)

Maps of the initial areas being considered by the panels:

Map of stewardship land areas across New Zealand

Media release: Government speeds up stewardship land reclassification 28 May 2021

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