Forest & Bird hails action to save Mackenzie Country

 Forest & Bird is praising a move to protect 100,000 hectares of the Mackenzie Basin as long overdue and just in time to give future generations of New Zealanders a chance to know a precious and remarkable natural landscape. 

The Mackenzie Country, Keith Payne, Alpine Recreation

The Mackenzie Country, Keith Payne, Alpine Recreation

The provision to preserve a proportion of the Mackenzie is a cornerstone of a collaborative agreement between conservationists, irrigators, dry-stock farmers, sports fishers and hunters, which is announced in Twizel today. 

The Mackenzie Sustainable Futures Trust behind the agreement was set up after Forest & Bird and the Environmental Defence Society called for a better way to manage the Mackenzie Basin. Both groups had seen the pressure the basin was coming under as a result of large-scale agricultural intensification.  

Forest & Bird Canterbury/West Coast Field Officer Jen Miller was part of the Mackenzie forum. "The process brought together all the interested parties, with the aim of retaining the integrity of the important ecosytems in  the Mackenzie Basin while allowing landowners to continue to run their businesses, realise the area's potential as a tourist destination and allow those with a recreational interest to have their say," she says.

Sir Alan Mark, an eminent Otago University-based ecologist and Forest & Bird Conservation Ambassador who attended the forum and provided advice, says the agreement to spare some of the Mackenzie Basin's unique indigenous ecosystems from potentially being lost as a result of development  is a fantastic step forward. 

"The Mackenzie is a unique piece of our natural history, which supports an extremely delicate ecosystem. This agreement is a very welcome outcome that I fully support," Sir Alan Mark says.

Jen Miller says the agreement represents a huge amount of co-operation between the many stakeholders and a wonderful effort on the part of numerous individuals and organisations. She says the real test of the forum will come during the next phase when  a mechanism is developed to ensure the 100,000 hectares are  protected. 

"The hard part will be translating what's been acknowledged by all the parties - that the Mackenzie is far too precious to lose - into reality," Jen Miller says.  

She points to the Land and Water Forum as a sign that such forums can achieve good results. "The government has already demonstrated that it will listen to recommendations that come out of collaborative bodies such as these. So we expect that it will honour the collaborative intent of the forum members and put in place the recommendations that have emerged. 

"This agreement is only the beginning, not the end, but I hope we're well on our way to a really good outcome for a significant New Zealand landscape," Jen Miller says.

 Read the agreement here