Mackenzie campaign takes off

19 Aug 2010

Forest & Bird has been working very hard on the launch of the next phase of the Save the Mackenzie Country campaign that will kick off on August 20 as part of the Artists as Activists exhibition at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington.

By Conservation Advocate Nic Vallance

As pressure grows in the Mackenzie Basin for more intensive farming and
developments such as subdivisions, the sweeping tussocklands and big sky
country are under imminent threat of being lost forever.

At first glance, the Mackenzie Country may appear to consist of little more
than undulating tussock, but this unique place is home to a vast array of native
plants and animals.

The Mackenzie is home to the largest collection of rare
ecosystems in New Zealand, and within these live 68 species of threatened
plants, eight species of threatened birds, including the wrybill and the
critically endangered kaki or black stilt.

The Government is considering freeholding 31,000 hectares of Crown
land to the pastoral leaseholders, who are currently restricted to grazing sheep
and beef cattle.

Freeholding the land would immediately put at risk the native
wildlife and landscape, since this would open the land to irrigation and resulting intensive cropping, large-scale dairying
and subdivision.

South of Twizel, a bird’s eye view of the Mackenzie reveals a series of shocking
green circles on the landscape caused by pivot irrigators, some up to a
kilometre across.

These huge irrigators transform the natural landscape into monocultures of grass and crops, destroying the native plants and animals which have evolved to live in this semiarid region.

The Mackenzie draws people from all over the country and the world to
experience its awe-inspiring landscape, which leaves many visitors visibly
moved.

Richie McCaw recently named the Mackenzie Country as his favourite
place in New Zealand.

The Tourism Industry Association describes the Mackenzie as one of
‘jewels in the crown’ of New Zealand’s brand and high country tourism is worth $4 billion to New Zealand, so we also
have a strong economic interest in protecting it.

Forest & Bird is calling on the Government to protect this special place for future generations. This
vision could be achieved by creating a Drylands Conservation Park at the
gateway to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, and using the tenure review
process, planning processes and other policies to maintain and enhance the
landscape.

Forest & Bird members demonstrated their power in playing an important role
in forcing the Government to do a U-turn on Schedule 4 mining. The Mackenzie
campaign is another opportunity for us
all to give nature a voice.