27 Aug 2009

Government changes High Country policy

8:30 pm on 27 August 2009

The Government is reversing the previous administration's policy of buying High Country land to protect it from intensive farming and development.

Agriculture Minister David Carter is taking a new direction, away from what he says was the driving of more and more land into Department of Conservation control.

Instead, Mr Carter says he will let the farmers in the South Island take care of the land.

He says DoC already has a considerable area of the South Island - which provides the agency with enough challenges, without looking to increase them.

Mr Carter says he is confident High Country farmers can deliver good biodiversity and conservation outcomes on their land.

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand says good progress was made over the past decade in establishing High Country parks and the Government should have left the policy alone.

The Government has also scrapped the previous policy on lakeside pastoral lease land, which effectively prevented leasehold properties within 5km of lakes from coming under tenure review.

Opposition agriculture spokesperson Jim Anderton says the original policy was designed to preserve the distinctive qualities of High Country lakes.

But he says that is now at risk if farmers decide to subdivide to allow developments, such as apartment buildings, to be constructed.