Satisfying protecting precious places

Robin Thomas is enjoying his new role as Queen Elizabeth II National Trust's Coastal Otago representative. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Robin Thomas is enjoying his new role as Queen Elizabeth II National Trust's Coastal Otago representative. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Dealing with enthusiastic, passionate people about protecting special features on their land is invigorating, Queen Elizabeth II National Trust's Coastal Otago representative Robin Thomas says.

The former Department of Conservation Coastal Otago area manager is enjoying every minute of his new job with the trust.

''It's fantastic. It is invigorating to talk to these people with such a passion and to want to do something about it.''

Mr Thomas bowed out of Doc during its latest restructuring after 40 years with the department and its predecessors. He said he had not looked back.

The trust gave landowners the opportunity to protect an area of land with recognised special features, such as forest and bush remnants, wildlife habitats, wetlands and cultural sites, via a covenant while it was in private ownership.

He travels the region monitoring and providing advice and support for QEII covenants and talks to landowners keen to set up new ones.

The new job was testing all his existing skills and requiring him to learn news ones.

''I've had to brush up on GPS systems and do a crash course in plant identification. It's really challenging. Exciting as.''

Listening to people's aspirations and ideas was an important part of the job.

''I'm a sounding board a lot of the time.''

While still new to the job, he had been contacted by many people considering applying for a covenant on their property.

Mostly they had a passion and interest about a particular part of their property.

''In some cases it might just be fencing an area, in others it might involve active involvement in predator control, weed control or enhanced planting.''

Once the property had been assessed by Mr Thomas it went to the trust's board for evaluation and approval.

If it was approved, the covenant was registered on the land's title and assistance could be given to help fence the area, if needed, and to have the area surveyed.

Representatives such as him then aimed to visit every second year to monitor progress and offer support and advice on things such as pest and weed control, he said.

Otago had a huge range of areas under covenant, from coastal bush remnants to open tussock land and wetlands.

''It fills a niche between crown blocks and, from wildlife point of view, it's important as it can create corridors between larger protected areas.''

South Otago farmer Helen Guilder is in the process of seeking a covenant to protect an area of land she and husband Peter had left to regenerate and planned to enhance. They also hoped to be able to re-establish a wetland.

''I want it to be there for future generations,'' she said.

Marjorie Orr and Colin McIntosh have about 20ha of regenerating native coastal forest under covenant near Saddle Hill which is also home to a peripatus worm population.

''We love the trees and bush and wanted to make sure it is protected forever.''

It was nice to know it would be protected after they were gone, she said.

-rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz


QEII National Trust

• Independent statutory organisation set up in 1977.
• It encourages and promotes the provision, preservation and enhancement of open space.
• A covenant is a legal agreement between the trust and landowner.
• Covenants bind owners and all subsequent owners in perpetuity.
• Covenants registered on land title.
• Covenants protect an area of private land with special features.
• Landowners are responsible for managing covenants.
• Financial assistance is available for fencing and surveying.
• Covenants are monitored by QE Trust every second year.
• Applications must be approved by a board of directors.

Otago

• Covenants: 194 (nationally 4200)
• Area: 11,318ha
• Largest: 2735ha
• Average size: 58.3ha (national average 29.5ha)


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