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A just-completed land exchange in the Nenthorn, Macraes area has added 330ha of permanent habitat for grand and Otago skinks.
Both species are critically endangered and have traditionally inhabited the block, known as Manuka Stream, which is next to well-established reserves on which the Department of Conservation (Doc) runs its Grand and Otago Skink Recovery Programme.
Doc community relations supervisor Ken Stewart said: "In this case Doc has swapped 196 hectares bought in the 1990s that doesn't have any skink populations or habitat, but is improved land with real farming value. On the other hand, the Manuka Stream block, now public conservation land, is unimproved and has both skink populations and habitat. Both parties, therefore, have gained."
Doc now has 2400ha in the area, with about 30ha surrounded by predator-proof fences. The new portion of land was covered in Kanuka, making it a unique snapshot of what Doc reserves in the area would look like in 60 to 80 years, Mr Stewart said.
The transfer was negotiated by the land's former owner Alastair Matheson, who still had a strong connection with the stream.