Fish and Game defends position on Nevis

Claims by Otago Conservator Jeff Connell that Otago Fish and Game is being "mischievous" in commenting about tenure review and the Nevis River have been dismissed by the Otago Fish and Game Council.

A report on the proposed tenure reviews of Crown-owned pastoral leases owned by Pioneer Generation, Ben Nevis Station and Craigroy Station, was considered by the council at a meeting this week.

Tenure review is a process where, through negotiation, a lessee can freehold land of productive value in return for surrendering land of conservation value, which is then managed by the Department of Conservation.

Chief executive Niall Watson said in the report, the proposals put forward by Land and Information New Zealand (Linz) recommended that 11,118ha of pastoral lease be retained by the crown for conservation purposes and 7891ha of lower altitude and valley floor land with landscape covenants be freeholded to Pioneer Generation.

Its hydro dam proposal was within the area proposed for freeholding.

It called into question whether the hydro-dam footprint had been taken "as a given" by Doc in the tenure review, regardless of the significant values present, he said.

Chairman John Barlow said the council's preference was for the pastoral leases on both properties to be retained, but if that was not possible to "try and see the dam not go ahead".

If this was a straight tenure review process, the valley floor would be protected by reserves and covenants but the process had been "subverted, as everyone knows there is going to be a dam", he said.

"It makes the tenure review quite murky."

Reports showed valuations of the land involved were "in my opinion as a valuer rather bizarre", Mr Barlow said. However, as the council did not have the full valuation reports it was hard to draw any conclusions.

The lack of information the council was able to access on the issues had made it difficult to make informed comment, he said.

Doc was the main agency being consulted by Linz on environmental issues which made it difficult for fish and game when the organisations' positions were different.

Cr Murray Neilson, Doc's representative on the council, tabled an email from Mr Connell.

He said Mr Connell was not happy Doc's integrity was being questioned and suggested the council wait to make its comments until the special tribunal hearings in June.

Mr Watson said he agreed, but the hearing was about a separate issue, the Nevis River, not the tenure review process.

"I do not know how he can accuse us of mischief. There are two public processes in train."

Cr Terry Broad said the council was doing nothing more than what it was charged, by Government, to do - protect the habitat of fish and game.

Mr Connell said when contacted yesterday, Doc would not be making any further comment until the tenure review proposals had been publicly notified, a process he believed was not far off.

Many of the issues would then be "all out in the open" and Fish and Game could make submissions, he said.



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