The government is proposing sweeping changes to the rules followed by farmers leasing Crown land.
Land Information minister Eugenie Sage has announced the end of tenure review, under which leased high-country Crown land could be signed over to farmers provided they set aside areas for conservation and plans to tighten the rules for the 171 properties that remained in Crown hands.
Farmers and the wider community would be consulted on requiring the Commissioner of Crown Lands to seek expert advice and consult when leasehold farmers asked for permission to irrigate and farm more intensively.
The intention was to safeguard natural landscapes, indigenous biodiversity and cultural and heritage values.
There were currently no plans to change the system for setting rents on Crown land.
She issued the following Statement
Iconic high country land will be better managed under changes on which we have announced Consultation 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 seen some land protected but also large swathes, 353,000 ha, have been privatised and large areas intensively farmed or subdivided.
Ending tenure review and changing the regulatory system for high country pastoral leases is about thinking long term and the Crown working with leaseholders to achieve sustainable land and water management.
Regulatory System continues
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.
The discussion document entitled “Enduring stewardship of Crown pastoral land” outlines proposed changes and seeks public comment. The changes include (a) Making decision-making by the Commissioner of Crown Lands more accountable and transparent (b) Providing more guidance and standards for the Commissioner’s decisions on leaseholder applications for activities such as burning and forestry (c) Requiring the Commissioner to obtain expert advice and consult as necessary when considering applications for discretionary consents (d) Updating the fees and charges framework (e) Requiring regular reporting against a monitoring framework.
On Rental or Lease changes
No changes are currently proposed to the system of setting rentals on pastoral leases.
Proposed new outcomes for Crown pastoral land include (a) Ensuring that the natural landscapes, indigenous biodiversity, and cultural and heritage values are secured and safeguarded through the Crown’s management of the land and (b) Allowing for pastoral and non-pastoral activities that support economic resilience and local communities.
Feedback is also being sought on how the Crown can better implement Treaty of Waitangi responsibilities regarding Crown pastoral land.
Amendment after Consultation
After public consultation, the Government will develop and introduce legislation to amend the Land Act 1949 and the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998.
The changes needed to implement a stronger stewardship regime for Crown pastoral land can only be achieved by changing the law, and in partnership with iwi, leaseholders who use the land, and the wider public.
It is vital we ensure that our high country pastoral leases are managed in the best interests of all New Zealanders, now and into the future.
This Government will stop privatisation of iconic landscapes that belong to New Zealanders and secure them for future generations.”
The consultation will be open for eight weeks until Friday, April 12, 2019.
Further information on how to make a submission and the discussion document can be found here: https://www.linz.govt.nz/CPLC