The NZCA's submission on the Enduring Stewardship of Crown Pastoral Land
IntroductionSubmitted 12 April 2019: Read the NZCA's submission on the Enduring Stewardship of Crown Pastoral Land.
Submission date: 12 April 2019
Submitted to: Land Information New Zealand
The Legislative Basis for the New Zealand Conservation Authority submission
1. The New Zealand Conservation Authority (the Authority) was established under the Conservation Act 1987, with members appointed by the Minister of Conservation. It is an independent statutory body with a range of functions, but primarily acts as an independent conservation advisor to the Minister and the Director-General of Conservation.
2. The Authority has a growing role as an objective advocate on matters of national significance and interest in the conservation arena and to provide high quality independent advice to the Department of Conservation (DOC) on its strategic direction and performance.
3. The Authority has a range of powers and functions, under the Conservation Act 1987, as well as under other conservation related legislation, such as the Reserves Act 1977 and National Parks Act 1980. Under the Conservation Act, Section 6C(2)(c), the Authority has the power to “advocate the interests of the Authority at any public forum or in any statutory planning process.”
4. Section 6B(1)(d) also states that one of the functions of the Authority is to “investigate any nature conservation or other conservation matters the Authority considers are of national importance, and to advise the Minister or the Director-General of Conservation, as appropriate.” The Authority sees the issue of managing pastoral lease land and ensuring the long-term protection of conservation and heritage values to be a conservation matter of national importance.
5. In addition, in 2007 the Authority developed a series of principles relating to the South Island High Country, to guide its views and input to issues, including tenure review, and these are appended.
6. Following the logic of the above powers and functions, the Authority have decided to submit on the LINZ consultation document – Enduring Stewardship of Crown Pastoral Land.
7. Pastoral Lease Land: The Authority welcomes the Government announcement halting the tenure review process and advising that pastoral lease land will remain under Crown ownership in the long term. The new policy direction means that pastoral lease land will in future be more tightly managed for a range of sustainable land management purposes including nature conservation. This also provides clear policy direction for LINZ staff.
8. The Authority’s comments reflect on the end of the tenure review process, and lessons learned, and the proposed future management of pastoral leases.
End of Tenure Review Process
9. The Authority supports the ending of the Tenure Review Process.
Under this process there has been a substantial increase in the total area of land under a higher form of protection, such as conservation land or covenant. The Authority recognises, however, that often while the area of protected land has increased, with much of this being high altitude lands already well represented in the protected area system, this has often occurred with the loss of the most threatened indigenous ecosystems in the high country such as valley floor wetlands, tussocklands, shrublands and lake margins. These have been freeholded as part of this process and often soon after developed for agriculture with the total or partial loss of their natural values.
10. Matagouri dominated shrublands on valley floors and foot slopes and short tussock grassland on similar sites of gentle terrain and their associated biota are a particularly disappointing loss in terms of both indigenous biodiversity and loss of natural landscape.
The Authority notes the ease with which modern technology, primarily through the use of herbicides and subsequent direct drilling/oversowing has resulted in the transformation of large areas of low altitude native vegetated high country into pasture grasses and crops. Land Environments of NZ (LENZ) has quantified the scale of this loss of indigenous biodiversity and identified what are now the most threatened high-country ecosystems.
11. The Authority acknowledges that some areas of low altitude high country have been protected through the tenure review process. The Authority also notes with concern, however, that some of the greatest successes in the protection of high country threatened indigenous biodiversity has occurred outside the tenure review process. This has occurred through the direct purchase of these valley floor and lower slopes area that under tenure review were often scheduled for freehold title.
These areas were largely purchased through the Government’s Nature Heritage Fund (NHF), and the Authority has had a role to play in the protection process for these areas. We have been involved in supporting the process of giving specially protected conservation land status designation to a range of DOC managed stewardship lands including the Castle Hill Pastoral Lease (PL), Avoca PL, Benmore PL into Korowai-Torlesse and Craigieburn Conservation Parks (CPs), Clent Hills PL and Hakatere PL (into Hakatere CP), St James PL, The Poplars PL (into Lake Sumner CP), Birchwood PL (into Ahuriri CP), Michael Peak PL (into Oteake CP). This outcome points clearly to a failure of the tenure review process because it potentially would have given freehold status to what are many of the lowest altitude lands of the easiest physical access with the most threatened biodiversity values.
12. Clearly the definition of Significant Inherent Values (SIV), and the tenure review negotiations conducted to protect these, failed to arrest the loss of many of the most threatened indigenous biodiversity and landscape values.
There was a negotiation imbalance where, despite those values being well identified by DOC-led teams, the negotiations to protect these areas were usually conducted by third parties – LINZ or independent negotiators – with the result that many of the threatened areas were lost through the negotiations with pastoral lessees.
13. Completion of tenure review on properties that are already in the process.
The Authority notes the many years that tenure review has been underway. Some properties never entered tenure review and those properties will come under the new LINZ Pastoral Lease regime. Those properties where tenure review may have started but is uncompleted were: (a) very late entrants to the process; (b) properties where there is disagreement about the tenure review outcome that has stalled the process; or, (c) properties where there has been a change of lessee which automatically stops the tenure review process. Noting that under the tenure review process the lessee or the lessor can withdraw from the process at any time, NZCA is of the view that all uncompleted tenure review processes should immediately stop, and those properties should come under the new Crown pastoral lease management regime, unless LINZ is of the view that negotiations have progressed to such an advanced stage that they should be allowed to continue.
Future Management of Pastoral Leases
14. Identification of Significant Inherent Values (SIV) including tangata whenua interests and European cultural history values.
The Authority was impressed with the high quality of information gathered during the Crown assessments of SIV and the cultural assessment of pastoral leases in tenure review. Under our Treaty of Waitangi Section 4 Conservation Act responsibilities, the Authority views with interest and concern the identification and protection of any important values on pastoral lease land identified by iwi (see also Principles 3 & 4 in the attached document). We also see the SIV process as vital for the future management of pastoral lease and recommend that the assessments be fast tracked to provide a baseline for the future sustainable management of the 1.2 million hectares (4.6% of NZ) contained within the remaining Pastoral Leases. The cost of these assessments should be covered by the Crown. Where this information is used in assessing applications for discretionary consents, however, there is a strong case for some of those costs to be carried by the applicant for the consent, in the same way as those costs are carried under the RMA.
15. Protection of SIVs on Pastoral Lease Land.
It is not sufficient for identified SIVs to be simply not available for development should discretionary consents be sought for these areas. These values may be degraded by existing pastoral farming compliant with the provisions of the Pastoral Lease. As outlined in the discussion document there needs to be an active protection programme that seeks to protect those inherent values. Indigenous biodiversity and tangata whenua, cultural values and recreational access should be legally protected. Practical protection may involve also close liaison with lessees on such matters as stocking rates, wild animal control and weed control. The Authority recognises and supports Reserve Act and Conservation Act covenant provisions, as a means of protecting significant natural and cultural values. There should also be a threshold where the protection of significant values requires full crown ownership and that may involve compensation to lessees. Areas that immediately adjoin Conservation or National Parks (see 17 below) may be better protected as a Park addition.
16. Protection of European Cultural high-country values.
The PL high country and large crown owned properties, such as Molesworth and St James, have very significant examples of the changing face of the high-country farming, and relics from the earliest pastoral farming in New Zealand. These values deserve special recognition and protection and we make this plea under the human and cultural history responsibilities of LINZ and the Authority.
17. Pastoral lease Proximity to DOC managed lands including National Parks and Conservation Parks.
The Authority requests that special status and recognition be given by LINZ where PL land adjoins these Parks. Activities and discretionary consents issued on these pastoral leases can directly impact on indigenous biodiversity, landscape, tangata whenua and recreational values of the adjoining Park. Last year the Authority was directly involved in discussion with the Minister of Conservation about discretionary consents and unauthorised development on Mt White Pastoral Lease and Riversdale Reserve land immediately adjoining Arthur’s Pass National Park. This development has a direct impact on recreational use of some of the Park’s most popular tracks, on valley floor biodiversity next to the Park, and is in direct conflict with the policies of the operative Arthur’s Pass National Park Management Plan 2007 and the Canterbury Waitaha Conservation management Strategy 2016.
18. Moratorium on Discretionary Consents until SIV and tangata whenua values have been assessed.
The discussion paper makes it clear that PL tenure entitles the lessee to exclusive occupancy and the pasturage on their PL properties. Lessees are not entitled to development rights, however, and must apply for a discretionary consent to exercise those rights, such as tree planting, pasture development, clearance of vegetation, commercial recreation or tourism ventures. Because the identification of SIV and tangata whenua values is so fundamental to sustainable management of those lands, there should be an immediate moratorium on the any further implementation of existing discretionary consents where these have not yet been completed and no new discretionary approvals should be issued. That will allow time for an open and participatory process to be established in the issuing of future consents and that these consents can be issued with a full understanding of the impact on SIVs and tangata whenua values.
19. Firm disciplinary actions must be taken by LINZ/CCL if there is any evidence of SIVs/tangata whenua values being degraded or destroyed prior to discretionary consents being sought.
The Authority is aware that on some pastoral leases large scale aerial herbicide spraying has been used to pre-empt the identification and protection of natural values under the discretionary consents procedure. That must not be allowed to continue. This clearly points to the importance of an annual or biennial stocktake of these PL properties to determine how the values that they contain are being sustainably managed.
20. Open process for Discretionary Consents.
The Authority is aware that under the previous Land Act that preceded the Crown Pastoral Lands Act, the Land Settlement Board had broad representation including recreation, Maori and conservation interests. Moreover, at a regional level there were Land Settlement Committees (LSC) also with such broad representation. The LSCs were able to scrutinise and make comment on discretionary consents sought for pastoral leases. That more open process has considerable merit compared to the existing process where these decisions have been matters conducted in ‘secrecy’ between the CCL/LINZ and the lessee. We are aware that even though the Department of Conservation’s advice might be sought on discretionary applications, DOC is usually just advised of the outcome and does not participate in the negotiation. That is most unfortunate because clearly in much of the high country, non-farming values exceed agricultural values and there must be an open process for weighing up the merits of each type of land use.
The Authority supports the recent establishment of a national high-country advisory committee to advise the Minister on the proposed changes to tenure review and the new directions, under the chairmanship of Mr Jerome Shephard of LINZ. However, because discretionary consents are often processed at a regional level there may be a strong case for regional high-country liaison groups to also review each application because this may be at a very local level.
21. Costs of Pastoral Lease Discretionary Consents.
The Authority is aware that the discussion document recognises that this is not the appropriate forum to debate the rental charged for leases. This matter has already been settled. However, there is a very strong case for applicants seeking discretionary consents to pay a substantial part of the costs of the assessments required as part of this process.
22. Pastoral Lease boundary definition and control of stock trespass
The Authority is aware that there are a large number of cases where the boundary between Pastoral Leases and National Parks and Conservation Parks is not fenced. We have the statutory oversight for conservation management of these Parks. The Authority recognises that one of the important conservation outcomes from tenure review was that stock were removed from a number of high conservation value valleys where trespass into the Parks had been an ongoing problem, because of the inability to boundary fence the stock within the Pastoral Lease (Birchwood, Dingle, Waiau/St James, Poplars, Mt Arrowsmith). Under the revised management regimes for Pastoral Leases the Authority requests that efforts continue between LINZ and DOC to ensure that stock trespass is reduced by all practical means from Pastoral Lessee onto Parks and Conservation lands.
Management Process for Pastoral Leases.
23. The Authority is happy that LINZ, in consultation with its Minister and the High-Country Advisory Group, is developing policies and procedures to implement the provisions we have outlined in this response.
24. The Authority recognises that implementation may require legislative change to the CPLA. This should be given urgency.
25. If there is an opportunity to speak to its submission, the New Zealand Conservation Authority would welcome that.
Attachment 1: NZCA South Island High Country Principles