Forest & Bird calls for more action to stop turning Mackenzie Basin into giant farm

Forest & Bird welcomes the Government’s call-in of the Mackenzie Basin factory farm consents, but says this will not stop the growing number of massive green irrigation circles that are destroying the fragile landscape.

Forest & Bird South Island Conservation Manager Chris Todd says there are other proposals to irrigate more than 19,000 hectares of the famous tawny-brown Mackenzie Basin. The Government has the power to intervene.

Half the irrigation proposals are on Crown-owned pastoral lease land, which is publicly owned land leased to farmers for grazing. Leaseholders need the Crown’s agreement for land use change under the Crown Pastoral Lands Act. “The Crown can also decide to protect the Mackenzie Basin landscapes and ecosystems through tenure reviews of the Mackenzie Basin pastoral leases,” Chris Todd says.

“Some of the proposed irrigation has already been granted district planning consents by the Waitaki and Mackenzie District Councils but they were done without any public notification, and some may not have got all the planning consents they need. These should be investigated.”

A 2 kilometre pivot irrigator would water 310 hectares of Auckland city

A 2 kilometre pivot irrigator would water 310 hectares of Auckland city

The huge glacial outwash plains of the Mackenzie Basin support a very high density of rare natural ecosystems. Hundreds of tiny rare plants and insects hide among the short tussocks and other plants. In recent years scientists have discovered new species of spiders, weta and moths.

Endangered black stilts rely on the region’s rivers. Wrybills – with their right-curving bills –banded dotterels and black-fronted terns also make their home in the basin.

Irrigating large swathes of the Mackenzie Basin will change forever these landscapes and obliterate the rare ecosystems.