Thursday, August 11, 2022

Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill passes

Neal Wallace

A Government led by the National Party will repeal the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill, which was passed by Parliament this week.

Nicola Grigg, the party’s Land Information spokesperson, has made the promise claiming the Bill introduces a punitive and adversarial system of management, bypassing stewardship by generations of leaseholders.

Land Information Minister Damien O’Connor says the Bill modernises management of 1.2 million hectares of South Island high country.

It also ends tenure review, a process he says was becoming costly and uncertain for applicants and the Crown.

“This Bill strikes a balance between recognising the place of pastoral farming as a legitimate use of the land, while protecting the importance of the unique values of our high country to NZ,” he says in a statement.

The Government accepts “ongoing sustainable pastoral farming” is the best way to manage this land, but the legislation needed modernising to achieve this. 

O’Connor says the Bill reaffirms leaseholders’ rights as pastoral farmers, but amends regulations so management balances the ecological, landscape, cultural, heritage and scientific values inherent to the land.

“Given some of these farms were developed by settlers a century ago, this is an absolute nonsense.”

Nicola Grigg
National MP

“This includes clarifying day-to-day farming practices, while improving consenting of activity that might impact those inherent values of the high country and addressing public expectations around access to the back country.”

Grigg counters that the changes prevent leaseholders from making decisions that could enhance the land, such as clearing weeds, which will now require consent.

“Nor will leaseholders be able to maintain roads and tracks that aren’t on the Land Information NZ (LINZ) register.

“Given some of these farms were developed by settlers a century ago, this is an absolute nonsense. 

“National believes the best approach to ensuring ongoing enhancement of the high country would be by using legally binding farm environmental plans, created in partnership between DOC, LINZ and the leaseholders.”

Meanwhile the Department of Conservation has received 160 submissions on legislative options for reclassifying stewardship land.

DOC’s director operations Karl Beckert expects to release a summary of those submissions in the middle of the year.

More than 2.7m ha, about 30% of conservation area, is classified as stewardship land which refers to protection based on the land’s natural and historic values.

Last year the Government announced steps to streamline the reclassification process, including legislative changes and the establishment of national panels to provide technical assessments and make recommendations to the Minister of Conservation.

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