Federated Farmers believes that Forest & Bird doesn’t understand High Country Pastoral Leases and any suggestion increased irrigation will lead to the ‘destruction’ of the Mackenzie Basin is irresponsible.
“The protection of iconic high country land has been in place for many years. In fact, formalising pastoral leases in the 1948 Land Act was visionary,” says Donald Aubrey, Vice-President of Federated Farmers and high country farmer.
“Most of the South Island’s high country conservation values that are evident today in tourism brochures and on television owe their preservation to the stewardship provided by perpetual leaseholders.
“The security of tenure provided by these leases enables farming families to make substantial investments to stave off the ravages of weeds and pests, like rabbits, that do so much damage to the high country.
“As the Minaret Station case proved, privatisation of high country land took effect around 1948 and earlier. Any attempt to suggest otherwise is misleading. These lands have been privately allocated, notwithstanding that the Government retains a minority interest.
“Yet they work brilliantly as New Zealand’s oldest and arguably most successful ‘covenants’. The state of privately run stations show how successful they are. It’s this success and interest that must be considered when tenure review is undertaken.
“In the case of Simons Pass Station, the greater the area required for Crown ownership and control - typically by the Department of Conservation (DoC) - the greater the cost burden falls on hard-pressed taxpayers.
“It would be irresponsible of the Government to continue to acquire large tracts of the high country at ever increasing expense, when private lease holders perform the same function while being working farms.
“Federated Farmers warned DoC last year that it was in real danger of not being able to protect the land it has already acquired.
“So DoC officials lamenting the way Government is implementing its high country policy really need to realise the liability of protecting land it gets from tenure is perpetual. Getting the land is not some one-off cost as the need to fight weeds and pests is constant.
“Effective conservation is targeted conservation. That means it’s important that high country land is available for a variety of economic uses including conservation, tourism and pastoral grazing. More irrigation makes farming systems economic and so enables us to make the level of investment DoC simply cannot match.
“This Government has talked openly about the different economic uses available for high country areas. It is looking to provide pastoral lessees with rentals they can afford and affordability can hardly be described as ‘pressure to privatise the Mackenzie’. That’s why Forest & Bird is misinformed,” Mr Aubrey concluded.