A lack of enforcement over burning, wetland clearance, and spraying on crown pastoral lease land shows how poorly some high country stations have been managed and highlights the need for more clarity over what is environmentally acceptable, says Forest & Bird.
“New Zealand’s high-country landscapes are iconic, help us thrive as a nation by providing clean water, and are habitat for many of our most endangered plants and animals,” says Forest & Bird’s Nicky Snoyink.
“But these areas have been pushed to breaking point by burning, clearance, and intensification, and historically poor management by LINZ.”
An Official Information Act (OIA) response received by Forest & Bird details 10 years of complaints about activities on public land held as pastoral leases. The compliance responses show that Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has so far undertaken no prosecutions.
“We think that these complaints are the tip of the iceberg, with many instances of environmental destruction going unnoticed, unrecorded, or allowed through discretionary consents. The current law doesn't prioritise nature, and LINZ lacks the tools to adequately protect native plants and animals,” says Ms Snoyink.
The OIA response lists 125 complaints over 10 years, which include soil disturbance, cultivation, spraying, over-sowing and top dressing, exceeding stock exemptions, clearing scrub, burning vegetation, gravel extraction, constructing tracks, wetland clearance, commercial hunting and undertaking commercial tourism activities without permission from the Commissioner of Crown lands.
“We’re disappointed that even repeat offenders have not been prosecuted to date. Forest & Bird has written to the Minister of Land of New Zealand, Damien O’Connor, expressing our disquiet at the past lack of accountability and transparency shown in high country management.” The letter is available here.
Forest & Bird recently submitted on the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill which redesigns the regulatory system for pastoral land and ends tenure review, the controversial process where leases have been split between conservation land and freehold interests.
“Tenure review has been bad for nature, with the already better-protected alpine areas becoming conservation land while the rarest ecosystems have been the most likely to be privatised, further fragmented and intensified.”
“Time is running out to stem the loss of biodiversity from land remaining as pastoral leases, which still make up five percent of New Zealand. The Government needs to pass a strong Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill, prioritising accountability, transparency, and nature protection.”