Forest & Bird has not given support to the Government’s “token” response to protecting the Mackenzie Basin

Forest & Bird is calling on the government to commit to implement fully the integrated package of recommendations of the collaborative Mackenzie Agreement.

In Twizel on Saturday, three years after the Government received the recommendations of the collaborative process, the Associate Minister of Conservation met with representatives of 16 of the original 22 signatories in Twizel to inform them of the Crown’s response to the recommendations of the Agreement.

Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says the Crown has dismissed the recommendations of the Agreement to introduce special legislation and to contribute any significant implementation funding.

“Instead they have offered to pay towards the start up of a Trust. They have rejected the proposal for any legislative authority to empower the Trust to achieve real landscape and biodiversity protection. Without any legislative or significant financial support this Trust will not be in a position to achieve much towards the agreed level of biodiversity and landscape protection is needed to retain the iconic values” said Mr Hackwell.

Mr Hackwell says what has been offered by the Government will do “almost nothing” to protect the iconic Mackenzie Country.

“During the three years that the Government has taken to respond to the Agreement's integrated package, over 6,000 ha of this special semi-desert place has been turned artificially green. Forest and Bird is aware of on-going clearance, the native vegetation is being removed and replaced by green exotic grasses, and if not already most will soon be irrigated.

“After three years the government has rejected the collaborative process's integrated package of recommendations and has instead cherry picked just a single aspect of that agreement by proposing an inadequately resourced Trust” said Mr Hackwell.

For this reason Forest & Bird has not supported the government's offer to set up the Trust along with two other signatories to the Agreement and has called on the government to honour the collaborative process by providing meaningful support to implement all of the Agreement's recommendations.

“Not only has the Government failed to respect a collaborative process they themselves initiated they have actively worked against the vision of the Agreement. The Government’s policy to allow the freeholding of large areas of pastoral lease land allowing has effectively undermined protection of some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country, said Mr Hackwell.

Background

Five years ago Nick Smith Minister for the Environment promoted a collaborative process in an effort to resolve the significant threats to the rare and vulnerable plants and animals and outstanding landscapes of the “Mackenzie Country”.

Prior to the forum, Forest & Bird actively promoted a national campaign “Save the Mackenzie Country” which called on the Government to manage the unprecedented irrigation development occurring at the time and protect the iconic tawny grasslands of the basin.

A collaborative process was established and in 2012 and after 18 months of meeting an integrated and comprehensive Agreement was reached as to how development and conservation within the basin should be managed.

The Agreement was signed by 22 signatories including representatives of irrigation companies, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and other farming groups, Fish and Game, community representatives, EDS as well as Forest and Bird and the Mackenzie Guardians.

It was agreed that 100,000 ha of land with high natural values would be protected by a variety of means, included funding to support landowners to manage pests and weeds. Wilding tree spread is one of the greatest threats to the natural values in the area. 26,000 hectares of the 100,000 hectares is already protected, or already in the process of being protected.

The Agreement made recommendations to the Government and Councils and included a proposal to establish a Trust along with special legislation to empower the Trust to raise and distribute monies and, importantly, Councils would need to have regard to the objectives and policies of the Trust.

The link to The Mackenzie Agreement here