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A syndicate of Maniototo farmers has retained grazing rights on the Mt Ida range, but the block will remain conservation land.
Decades of debate have been brought to an end by an out-of-court settlement between the Mt Ida Syndicate group of farmers and the Department of Conservation, the details of which were made public yesterday.
Three years ago, Commissioner of Crown Lands, David Gullen, designated the 8400ha block for vesting as conservation land. The syndicate, which had used the land for summer grazing for more than 100 years, sought a judicial review of the process.
Since the 1960s there has been debate about continued grazing on the land, with licences subsequently granted for 21-years and then for five-year periods.
The parties have now agreed it will remain as conservation land to be managed by Doc, with the Mt Ida Syndicate able to graze the land for a 12-week period every year for the next 10 years. The effects of the grazing will be monitored.
The huts on the block, built by the farmers, are now owned by Land Information New Zealand.
Syndicate members are allowed to occupy the huts, for stock management purposes, during the grazing period.
Syndicate spokesman Alistair Scott, of Kyeburn, said yesterday the settlement was "the best solution that could be obtained".
"It's just been a long, drawn-out battle, involving lots of money, time and stress going back many years," he said.
Five farming families are involved in the syndicate. Three of them - the Scott, Inder and Hore families, were the original users when the block was first grazed.
Mr Scott said the syndicate would apply to renew its current grazing licence, when the licence expires in 10 years.
Otago conservator Marian van der Goes described the settlement as a good result.
"I think we can all work well together," she said.
Public access to the land, which borders the Oteake Conservation Park, was preserved for all time, she said.
However, Mr Scott said public access to the land had never been in dispute.
"It's pretty much the back of beyond, so the huts that are there provide a welcome shelter for anyone in the area, especially in winter, if there's snowstorms."
The farmers had said the block was vital for the continued viability of their farming operations, some years.
One of the syndicate members, Laurie Inder, of Ranfurly, said he was "a little sad" the block had remained conservation land, after the farmers' association with the property had spanned more than a century.
It had cost the farmers about $50,000 to retain their grazing rights to the block, he said.
Mr Gullen warned the settlement should not be viewed as creating a precedent for other pastoral occupation land.