High Country Matters, Edition 2

3 October 2019

Tēnā koutou and nau mai, haere mai to the second edition of High Country Matters, a quarterly newsletter from Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).

Jerome Sheppard
Deputy Chief Executive, Crown Property

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) Conference and the theme “Through new eyes” really resonated with me, as I’m sure it does for many of you passionate about protecting the landscapes of the South Island high country.

At LINZ, this is at the forefront of our minds as we consider how we can better contribute to the management of 1.2 million hectares of Crown pastoral land that stretches from Marlborough to Southland.   

We’ve been making a number of changes both at an operational and regulatory level. We hope an article on the operational improvements already underway will be of interest. These changes include having our people, rather than third party service providers, carry out property inspections and more regular visits to pastoral leases. This is part of our commitment to taking a more active and hands on role to ensure this land is used sustainably and that we better connect with our lessees.   

The changes have been made possible thanks to an increase in funding of $3.1 million over four years through Budget 2019.

Also in this edition, the Commissioner of Crown Lands clarifies what’s happening with tenure review and where things are at with the reform of the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998. Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage has announced that tenure review will end but, until the legislation changes, reviews are ongoing.

It was great to hear feedback at the EDS Conference on the changes we are making to improve the way we manage Crown pastoral leases.

One of the comments that stood out to me was from EDS executive director Gary Taylor, who referred to the changes as the “rebirth” of a “pretty deficit-ridden organisation”. I now have this quote next to my desk to remind me of how far we’ve come in a relatively short time, and it highlights the need to do better.

I realise we still have a way to go, but I’m proud of how committed my staff have been in listening to stakeholders, reflecting on that feedback and starting on the journey.

There’s no denying that change can be challenging, but it’s also exciting and I feel fortunate to be a part of this journey we’re on to continue to improve as kaitiaki (guardians) of this precious land. It’s a role we take seriously and we’re committed to working closely with lessees, our Treaty partners and stakeholders to ensure it is enhanced for generations to come.

I hope you enjoy this newsletter and I welcome any feedback you may have on what you would like to see it cover in future editions. You can reply to this email address to do so. Please also feel free to share this newsletter with anyone else who may be interested.

Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei,

Jerome Sheppard – Deputy Chief Executive, Crown Property

Inspection at Mt Stalker

Pastoral lease visits

LINZ is taking a more active approach to the way it supports management of Crown pastoral land in the South Island high country, with a strong focus on visiting pastoral leases more regularly.

LINZ Land and Property Manager April Hussey, who manages the pastoral team, says with 163 pastoral leases that span 1.2 million hectares it’s a challenging task but one that LINZ is fully committed to.

Over the last 12 months, LINZ has been making several operational improvements in order to become more knowledgeable land managers and stewards of this iconic landscape.   

Among these changes includes a commitment to visit pastoral leases at least once every two years.

April says that since January, her team has visited over 50 pastoral leases, with visits slowing over the winter period due to poor weather conditions often restricting access and visibility.

“More recently, we’ve been busy preparing the inspection programme for this summer, when property visits will gear up again. Currently 30 visits are scheduled, beginning in early October, but we expect many more will take place.”

She says portfolio managers are also visiting leases each time a consent application is made, or they become aware of a compliance matter.

Investigations into non-compliance matters have also increased since January and a greater number of lessees are approaching their portfolio managers for advice around on-going compliance.

“While talking about increased investigations may sound negative, it’s actually really positive that non-compliance is now being more actively investigated,” says April.

There are currently eight active compliance investigations underway, most of which were self-reported.

“To prevent non-compliance, the team is actively assisting new lessees and farm managers with information on compliance in order to increase awareness of when consent is required for certain activities,” says April.

In July, the pastoral team also took over property inspections from service providers.

“Our service providers were doing a great job, and we will continue to work closely with them for consent applications, but we felt it was important we take a more hands-on approach to how we manage this precious taonga (treasure).”

The pastoral team has also been focused on building capability to assist them in carrying out property inspections.

“We are always looking for ways to be better guardians of the land and we believe these changes will help us on this journey,” says April.

In a helicopter during an inspection of Mt Stalker

Message from the Commissioner of Crown Lands

Tēnā koutou,

I understand there has been some confusion around whether tenure review is still occurring and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify where we are at.

While Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage announced earlier this year that the Government intends to pass legislation to end tenure review, until that occurs tenure review is still ongoing.  

You may have seen in the media recently that a tenure review agreement was reached for Island Hills in Canterbury. This is the first pastoral lease to reach a substantive proposal since it was announced tenure review would end.

The discussion document released earlier this year proposed that while tenure review was to be ended, reviews where a substantive proposal has been accepted by a leaseholder would be completed. Any reviews that have not reached this point by the date of enactment of the required legislative changes will not proceed.

The timeframe for passing legislation to end tenure review is uncertain. Until then, I’m legally required to continue with tenure review.

You will also be aware that the Government has consulted on several further possible changes to improve how the Crown administers this land. LINZ continues to engage with the High Country Accord Trust, iwi and environmental and recreational advocacy groups regarding this work.

LINZ staff have been hosted by the Accord on several leases and explored the practical impact of proposals on the day-to-day management of the leases and how information gaps might be filled. These considerations, as well as the significant number of submissions from lessees, have been reflected in LINZ’s policy advice to Ministers.

Related to this, I was recently fortunate to attend a High Country Accord meeting in Christchurch to talk about the operational improvements LINZ has underway, including increased visits to pastoral leases. It was a great opportunity to connect directly with lessees and stakeholders committed to managing this land sustainably, to hear their questions, feedback and stories. It was evident from everyone in the room that they’re passionate about this unique and special place and committed to working with us to protect it for generations to come.

There’s no denying it’s an interesting time to be Commissioner of Crown Lands, but I feel fortunate to be a part of this turning point in the way we work with our lessees and our other stakeholders to manage Crown pastoral land in the South Island high country.

Nāku noa, nā

Craig Harris – Commissioner of Crown Lands

Protecting our biodiversity

LINZ biosecurity and biodiversity director Dave Mole talks about what LINZ is doing to protect the land, rivers and lakes in the South Island high country from invasive weeds.


As kaitiaki (guardians) of the land we have a responsibility to look after it to protect it for future generations, and biosecurity plays a key part in honouring this commitment.

We are currently in the process of developing a new biosecurity strategy, which is due to be finalised over the coming weeks and we’ll have an update for you on this in our next issue.   

Invasive trees

A key focus for us in the South Island high country is stopping the spread of wilding conifers. If left unchecked, it’s estimated that in two decades they would take up 20 percent of New Zealand.

We are working with a number of partners including the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Department of Conservation (DOC), New Zealand Defence Force, regional and district councils, iwi, forestry, farming and community groups to halt their spread. I know many pastoral leaseholders are doing their own work to tackle this issue and I’d like to thank you all for investing your own money in controlling these invasive trees on your property.

Our combined efforts are making a difference. In the three years of the National Wilding Conifers Programme, which was implemented in 2016/2017, we controlled and prevented the spread of wilding conifers across around 1.2 million hectares of New Zealand’s high country.

Depending on the scale, location and density of the wilding problem, there are a number of removal options available, including cutting, aerial spraying or ‘drill and fill’ application of herbicide.

Restoration

But it’s not just about removing wilding conifers. We are also working to regenerate areas cleared of these invasive trees.

We’ve been working with the Mackenzie District Council, New Zealand Transport Agency, DOC and local rūnanga, to restore Peter’s Lookout, which overlooks Lake Pukaki. The parking area has been upgraded and expanded to allow more people to pull over and enjoy the iconic view, which is no longer obscured by wilding conifers. Native plants are also being planted, where the wildings used to be, and additional facilities put in place including a picnic area, seating, toilet and walkway to the lake (as shown in the above image). A grand opening is scheduled for November.

This summer, in conjunction with Environment Canterbury, we also plan to begin work to trial a restoration technique in an area adjacent to Peter’s Lookout. The area was once covered in wilding conifers and these trees were removed but the land is now becoming overrun with invasive weeds. After it has been cleared, the area will be fenced and grazed with stock until nearby wilding conifers are removed to prevent the invasive tree spreading to the site. Once the neighbouring wilding conifers are gone, the area will be regenerated with native plants.     

Diver removing lagarosiphon

Aquatic weeds

We’re also working hard to protect our iconic lakes, such as Lake Wanaka and Lake Benmore, from aquatic weeds.

We have secured an additional $7.5million over four years as part of the Budget 2019 to support the work we are doing to protect our lakes, rivers and the land from invasive weeds and pests.

A significant proportion of this funding will go towards ramping up our efforts to tackle lagarosiphon. This weed, which originates from South Africa, threatens our rivers and lakes as it clogs waterways and damages native biodiversity. We are working closely with regional and district councils, as well as power companies, to control the lakeweed through hand-weeding, cutting, spraying herbicide, hessian matting and also investigating potential biocontrol agents.

We’re pleased to announce that in March 2020, in conjunction with partner agencies, we are planning to hold a Lakeweed Forum in Wanaka. The aim of the forum is to provide an opportunity to bring affected groups in Central Otago together to share their learnings and look at how we can continue to work together and better coordinate efforts to control lagarosiphon, which can grow up to five metres high.

To help raise awareness about the importance of protecting our rivers and lakes, we will also be engaging with local schools and running a short-video competition around the theme ‘what do you value in our lakes’. The winning video will be presented at the forum, along with a prize giving. Keep an eye out for more details on this in the next High Country Matters.

If you have any questions about any of these projects, please don’t hesitate to contact me on dmole@linz.govt.nz. Or, to find out more about our biocontrol work, visit the Biosecurity section of our website.

Meet the team – Thomas Burns

Each edition of High Country Matters we’ll profile a different member of the pastoral team. This time around we spoke to Thomas Burns.

 

Thomas Burns, a senior portfolio manager in LINZ's pastoral team

Tom is a senior portfolio manager in the pastoral team based in Christchurch. A new addition to the team, Tom joined LINZ in June 2019.

He has a strong background in farming and ecology and looks forward to helping build capability within the pastoral team. Prior to joining LINZ, he spent the last few years as a consultant, with the majority of his work centred around marine biology, including a project in the Sub-Antarctic monitoring sea lion populations.   

Tom says he has always had a connection with the land and puts this down to his upbringing.

He grew up on a dairy farm in the Waikato and from a young age learnt how to look after animals and the land.

He says his parents instilled in him the importance of respecting the land and all living things.

Tom says he is looking forward to helping strengthen the relationship between LINZ and pastoral leaseholders to achieve the best outcomes for the land.

“Having grown up and worked on a farm, I can appreciate the challenges cockies face on farm every day. But with my background in ecology I also see the importance of taking a step back and making sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the land. Ensuring this precious land is protected for future generations requires joint stewardship. We all need to work together.”

Outside of work, Tom enjoys spending time hunting, fishing, tramping, diving and is also a talented photographer.

If you ever have any questions, you can contact your Portfolio Manager, Tom or the pastoral team at any time using their email addresses or by emailing pastoral@linz.govt.nz.

Encouraging responsible camping

LINZ responsible camping Portfolio Manager Richard Summerlee outlines the plan for our Lake Dunstan camp sites this summer.


This season we will continue to have a strong focus on education and monitoring at our popular Lake Dunstan sites to encourage responsible camping.

We are working closely with a number of stakeholders including the Central Otago District Council (CODC), Department of Conservation, the NZ Transport Agency and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to promote responsible and sustainable camping throughout the region.  

Last summer, 33,375 vehicles went through our four sites at Lake Dunstan – approximately 3,000 a week. This includes those using the site for camping and recreational purposes (e.g. boating, picnicking, etc.). High visitor numbers have put pressure on our sites and existing facilities, so we have been working hard to ensure that additional facilities are put in place for use over those peak times. We were very pleased with the behaviour of those using our sites last season.

Throughout the year, LINZ is responsible for the general maintenance of the areas around Lake Dunstan, including rubbish removal and cleaning of the toilet facilities. Over summer, we ramp up the frequency of these services considerably. Currently, these costs are shared between LINZ and CODC, who have been the beneficiaries of critical Tourism Infrastructure Funding from MBIE.

As some of you may have seen in the media, we have decided not to introduce a fee at our Lake Dunstan camp sites this summer. However, we are keen to continue exploring the idea, as our currrent funding is not sustainable long-term, so watch this space.

High Country Advisory Group

The High Country Advisory Group (HCAG) continues to provide valuable insights into LINZ’s South Island high country operational improvements, as well as proposed changes to the Crown Pastoral Land Act.  

Deputy Chief Executive of Crown Property for LINZ, Jerome Sheppard, says at the last HCAG meeting in August, the group discussed pastoral lease administration, including LINZ’s new approach to lease inspections and our commitment to visit every lease every two years. The group was supportive of this shift and their feedback centred on the need to build trust and partnerships with all stakeholders – including lessees, DOC, iwi, and the public.   

“We are committed to being an active manager of the Crown pastoral estate and appreciate the High Country Advisory Group’s support in helping us achieve this. We realise it will take some time to implement a comprehensive LINZ-led pastoral lease inspection programme, but we’ve taken the first steps on this very important journey, and our current focus is on building our capability and capacity.”   

The group also suggested LINZ develop proactive tools to assist lessees who are looking for advice around maintaining and enhancing biodiversity as part of their farming practices. Mr Sheppard says LINZ is currently looking into this.

LINZ also gave a demonstration to the group of a new set of maps and data for the Mackenzie Basin. LINZ pulled the publicly facing spatial information into one place to assist with better and more transparent decision-making for the Basin. The group was interested in the potential uses for the tool and members suggested other information that could be incorporated.

The group will meet again in November to discuss other Crown land in the high country and LINZ’s biosecurity programme, as well as the Crown pastoral land policy work.

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Email: media@linz.govt.nz or phone: 027 566 5251