Hundreds of parcels of land in Otago have outstanding
conservation and recreational values but are less protected
than reserves and are at risk from increased commercial
activities, mining and land swap, conservationists say.
They include some of Otago's most loved places, such
as Dunedin's Sandfly Bay and Aramoana Conservation Area,
Flat Top Hill, near Alexandra, land next to Te Papanui
Conservation Park and Mt Aspiring National Park, land in the
Old Man and Woman ranges and Remarkables and Greenstone
Until recently, many thought this land was well protected but
the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan
Wright's report on stewardship land highlighted it was less
protected than reserves and parks, Forest and Bird Otago
Southland field officer Sue Maturin says.
In Otago there are more than 500 pieces of the conservation
estate, 232,025ha, legally classified as stewardship land,
with about 52 of those, 45,332ha, listed as having ''priority
Nearly all of the high country land obtained through tenure
review had already been identified as having high
conservation and landscape values, and should be able to be
reclassified into more appropriate protective categories
without extensive need for on-the-ground surveys, she said.
''The Crown has spent millions of dollars to protect this
land, and it should be properly protected.''
Successive conservation ministers under this Government had
''sacrificed'' stewardship land in the interests of mining,
as had been seen with the Denniston Plateau and the exclusion
of stewardship land with lignite under it from the Oteake
Conservation Park, she said.
Emeritus Prof Sir Alan Mark said the whole issue of
stewardship land was a ''shambles''.
''The Parliamentary Commissioner was right on the ball
highlighting the importance of reclassifying areas with known
conservation values. This should have been given priority
some time back.''
The land was more threatened than other conservation land and
was seen by some as being ''there for the taking''.
''An attitude has developed that if it's stewardship land
then it has limited conservation value, which is not true.''
He listed about 27 areas of stewardship land in Otago, some
considered priority ecosystems, some not, that were important
for biodiversity or recreational reasons.
Federation Mountain Clubs acting president Peter Wilson, who
also works for Fish and Game Otago, pointed out many of those
areas listed by Prof Mark were popular for outdoor activities
such as tramping, skiing, rock climbing, fishing and hunting.
The Hunter River had a high quality backcountry fishery and
was considered one of New Zealand's most remote rivers, while
the Remarkables Conservation Area was popular for skiing,
rock climbing and mountaineering.
The Old Man Range was considered by many as having national
park values, with extensive tall tussock cover with water
yield value and many important species, he said.
The Rock and Pillars, close to Dunedin, had a recreational
history of skiing, historic huts, summer tramping, winter
ski-touring, many distinctive animals and plants and
In coastal Otago, the Tautuku forest was a relatively intact
lowland forest, which was very rare on the East Coast of the
South Island, he said.
Otago Conservation Board acting chairman Gordon Bailey said
he hoped if people were passionate about these areas they
would make submissions to Otago's Conservation Management
Plan urging Doc to include as a priority sorting out
stewardship areas with high conservation values.
''It needs to be locked into department forward planning.
This is a really good opportunity.''