High country ‘tenure review’ to be scrapped

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage:  Government to end tenure review

The Government will end tenure review in the South Island high country, Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage announced today.

Tenure review is a voluntary process where Crown pastoral land can be sold to a leaseholder and areas with high ecological and recreational value can be returned to full Crown ownership as conservation land.

“Tenure review has resulted in parcels of land being added to the conservation estate, but it has also resulted in more intensive farming and subdivision on the 353,000 ha of land which has been freeholded. This contributed to major landscape change and loss of habitat for native plants and animals,” said Eugenie Sage.

“Tenure review has produced a mixed bag and has been criticised for a long time. It’s not clear that the taxpayer has always got value for money.

“We want to ensure that we are good stewards of the remaining 1.2 million hectares of pastoral lease land; that farmers can farm while safeguarding the high country’s landscape, biodiversity, social, economic and cultural values for present and future generations.”

With tenure review ending, the remaining Crown pastoral lease properties, currently 171 covering 1.2 million ha of Crown pastoral land, will continue to be managed under the regulatory system for Crown pastoral lands.

An announcement about the future of Crown pastoral land management will be made on Sunday.

Ending tenure review will involve law changes to the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998.

That act was passed during a term of the Bolger/Shipley Government, and survived both the Clark term and the Key/English term.

Charlie Mitchell (Stuff):  The slow, sorry end of tenure review

For all of its flaws, there was something comforting about the way tenure review united groups that are often in conflict.

Before it was officially canned on Thursday, it was a rare piece of public policy that had few champions on any part of the political spectrum, despite the fact it had stuck to successive governments like a sloth clinging to a falling tree branch. There was little evidence of enthusiastic support, or even a vague notion of what was meant to be accomplished.

That was certainly the conclusion of an internal review by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), released last week, which appears to have sharpened the blade for tenure review’s execution.

It was a fall from grace for a policy that had started with promise in the 1990s, when there was multi-partisan consensus between farmers, conservationists, and public access groups that it just might work. You could give farmers more control over managing the land, add to the conservation estate, and improve access to the most scenic parts of the country in one fell swoop.

That vision, in practice, strayed so far from its origins that by the time it was formally dropped, it would be hard to find a less popular policy, particularly one that had been continued by four successive governments.

Many farmers and conservationists had come to resent tenure review, albeit for different reasons; the minister responsible for LINZ, Eugenie Sage, had once called tenure review “the greatest wave of privatisation since Rogernomics” and repeatedly pointed out it had been “heavily criticised” when she announced its cancellation this week.

But the clearest sign that tenure review was done came in that internal review. There were many criticisms, but the most telling was this: The Crown “does not appear to have a clear strategic objective, other than exiting the arrangements.”