23 December 2019

Tēnā koutou and nau mai, haere mai to the final edition of High Country Matters for 2019.

First and foremost,  thank you to all those who took the time to send us feedback on our last issue. Your words of support for the changes we’re making meant a lot to me and the LINZ team.

As the year draws to a close, we thought we’d take this opportunity to reflect on what we’ve achieved this year and outline what work we have coming up in the new year.

I’m sure many of you can agree it’s been a whirlwind year, with several changes to the way the South Island high country is managed both at an operational and a regulatory level.

We’ve come a long way in a relatively short time.

We’re making good progress on our mission to improve our role in Crown pastoral land management, as you’ll read in the update from pastoral team manager April Hussey about our pastoral lease visits. We’re well on track with our commitment to visit leases at least once every two years.

This issue also features a guest column by our Minister for Land Information, Hon Eugenie Sage, who provides an update about the changes to the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 and Land Act 1948. She talks about what these changes mean and how they will help contribute to our collective vision to protect this precious taonga for generations to come.

We also introduce you to our new chief executive, Gaye Searancke, who has a strong connection to the land, and is settling in after four months in the role. 

Our biosecurity and biodiversity director, Dave Mole, also talks about some of the weed control work we are doing to protect braided rivers and the benefits this is having on biodiversity, in particular native birds.

In this issue’s pastoral team profile, we farewell Murray ‘Muzza’ Mackenzie, who has been with us and LINZ's predecessors for an impressive 48 years. As his last name suggests, Murray has an interesting connection with the South Island high country. Murray says one of the highlights over the years has been the privilege of visiting some of the most beautiful locations in New Zealand and developing relationships with the people who look after them. We wish him all the best for the future.  

We also have updates on changes to our Lake Dunstan campsites, tenure review, and from the High Country Advisory Group and Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Programme.

If you have any suggestions for topics you would like to see covered in our next issue in March, or future issues, please let us know.

From the team here at LINZ, we wish you a safe and merry Christmas and happy New Year.

Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei,

Jerome Sheppard – Deputy Chief Executive, Crown Property


The view overlooking part of Minaret Station.

Pastoral lease visits ramp up

LINZ pastoral team manager April Hussey provides an update about her team’s commitment to visit pastoral leases more frequently.  

As the weather has improved over the last few months, we have ramped up pastoral lease visits and inspections.

Since July, we have visited 42 pastoral leases. A number of visits are also scheduled over the coming months.

I’m proud to say we’re on track to achieving our goal of visiting each pastoral lease at least once every two years. The team are working hard to identify properties that are overdue for a visit and to develop good working relationships with their lessees.

The team has committed to visits for the purposes of lease inspections, as well as when lessees apply for consent or have compliance questions.

Prior to inspections getting underway, we trialled our new inspection approach on Minaret Station.

It was great to get feedback directly from a lessee to ensure our inspection approach meets not only our needs and that of the land, but also lessee needs.  

So far, the response from lessees has been positive. We’ve received great feedback including the need to develop better materials and guidance for lessees, particularly around consent requirements.

We will continue to look at ways to improve our inspection approach and welcome any further feedback from lessees and other stakeholders. If you would like to share any feedback, please contact your portfolio manager or email pastoral&tenurereview@linz.govt.nz.

Minaret Station lessee Jonathan Wallis shows a map of the property to members of the pastoral team.

Message from the Minister for Land Information

Photograph of Eugenie Sage – Minister of Land Information

Tēnā koutou,

As some of you will be aware, on Monday 16 December the Government agreed to make further changes to the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 and Land Act 1948, that will complement the end of tenure review.  

You can view the Cabinet paper Delivering Better Outcomes on Crown Pastoral Land on LINZ's website. 

The changes are a milestone for the protection of the South Island high country, and the new legislation will set a foundation for the future of this land. This future is clear – the Government will be a guardian of this taonga, in partnership with leaseholders who live on the land.

LINZ and the Commissioner of Crown Lands (CCL) – on behalf of the Crown – will be required to ensure ecological, landscape, cultural, heritage and scientific values are maintained, or enhanced, while providing for ongoing pastoral farming.

The changes will allow leaseholders to continue pastoral farming but ensure everything that is unique and precious about this land, and the species that call it home, are safeguarded.

For most leaseholders, the changes will largely not change the way they farm, if they are already following best practice to minimise their impact on the environment.

As I’ve reassured leaseholders, there will be no changes to the rents-setting process.

There will be greater engagement with iwi, more public involvement and increased transparency around how LINZ and the CCL manages this land.

While there will be more public involvement, this will not extend to decision making on individual activities.

The next step is to introduce a Bill early next year to enact these changes. There will be an opportunity to comment on the changes during the select committee process. 

Finally, I want to thank everyone involved in the consultation process – particularly those of you who took the time to write a submission or attend one of the consultation meetings. Your feedback has contributed significantly to the development of these changes.  

I’m pleased with the progress we have made this year and look forward to seeing the long-term benefits these significant changes have for the inherent values of the South Island high country.

Nāku noa, nā

Eugenie Sage – Minister of Land Information

Get to know the CE

Photograph of LINZ chief executive Gaye Searancke

LINZ chief executive Gaye Searancke shares a bit about her background and her vision for LINZ as custodian of the South Island high country.

Gaye grew up in rural Wairarapa and still feels most at home in the country, preferably riding a horse. 

“I went to boarding school, but I managed to keep my hand in and often competed in the weekends. I still enjoy riding, but sadly don’t own a horse anymore. I did recently buy an electric mountain bike to try to keep up with my husband who’s mad keen – that’s probably the urban equivalent of a horse!”

When studying law at Otago University, she spent the holidays working as a rouseabout in shearing gangs in both the North and South Island.

“It wasn’t until I qualified as a lawyer that I made the cross-over and became a ‘townie’,” she says. 

Prior to working at LINZ, Gaye held senior leadership roles across the public service, most recently with Inland Revenue.

She was attracted to the CE role at LINZ as she strongly connected with the organisation’s purpose.

“LINZ has a long proud history and I’m thrilled to become part of the whānau. We have talented, capable people and the opportunity to make an even bigger contribution to New Zealand than we already do.”

In the four months she has been with LINZ, there have been a number of operational changes in the management of the South Island high country.

“We’ve acknowledged that we need to lift our game. That’s what we’re doing and will do for the long-term.”

Gaye says LINZ is committed to taking a more active and hands on role in the management of Crown pastoral land and is working more closely with lessees, iwi, regional councils, environmental NGOs, and the Department of Conservation.

“Our focus is on improving our relationships with lessees, our information systems, and our knowledge of the land, to make more informed decisions.

“It’s still fairly early days, but I think we’re making good progress.”

With the proposed changes to the Crown Pastoral Land Act and Land Act, following the decision to end tenure review, she says the Crown will have an enduring role in the high country.

“With this responsibility comes a real opportunity to change how we operate. We are already making changes and I’m determined to continue to improve the way we do things in 2020.”

Gaye recently met with the three rūnanga in the Mackenzie Basin and says she looks forward to taking up the offer from the High Country Accord to visit a number of pastoral leases in the new year.

While in the district, she will also be meeting with a number of other people to discuss other matters including biosecurity. 

Photograph of a braided river

Braided river weed control

LINZ biosecurity and biodiversity director Dave Mole talks about weed control along braided rivers to protect our biodiversity and landscapes.  

We are working closely with community groups, local councils and the Department of Conservation (DOC) to tackle weeds threatening our iconic braided rivers.

In particular, we’ve been targeting broom, gorse and lupins, which if left unchecked can take over the habitat of native wildlife and spread to farm land and conservation areas.

Our weed control work is helping native birds such as threatened black stilt/kakī, black-fronted tern, and banded dotterel, that can nest on braided river systems managed by LINZ.

Weeds provide cover for predators, such as mustelids, feral cats, rats and hedgehogs. By removing weeds, we are helping give native birds a fighting chance of survival by providing them a clear line of sight and improving their ability to camouflage themselves and their nests with their shingle surroundings.

Our control efforts are also assisting in preventing the spread of weeds to neighbouring farmland, pastoral leases and public conservation land.

This vital work complements weed and pest control being carried out by local farmers, lessees, iwi, councils and DOC. To better coordinate our efforts, we have adapted our Biosecurity Control Works Programme to better align with the objectives of our partners and existing large-scale conservation projects, such as Te Manahuna Aoraki. Collectively, we are making a difference.

Controlling broom, gorse and lupin along braided rivers is just a small part of the biosecurity work we do. We are committed to keeping on top of any invasive pests or plants, such as wilding pines and lakeweed, that pose a risk to our unique landscapes and biodiversity.  

A key part of this is being aware of any new infestations. If you come across any pest or plant infestation please don’t hesitate to let us know by reporting it to biosecurity@linz.govt.nz.

Black stilt/kakī. Photo credit: Dean Nelson/DOC.

View of the Blue Lake huts at Glenaray Station. Photo supplied by DOC.

Glenaray Station tenure review

LINZ recently invited the public to have their say on the tenure review of New Zealand’s largest high country pastoral lease, Glenaray Station. You may have seen this in the media.

At 62,000 hectares, the station, made up of Glenaray and Whitecomb pastoral leases, is home to more than 60 threatened species and 15 rare plants, and its landscape is regarded as internationally significant.

A preliminary proposal has been developed and if it goes ahead will see 38,000 hectares of the pastoral lease become public conservation land, ideal for recreational activities including cross country skiing, tramping, mountain biking, horse riding, hunting and fishing. 

An additional 13,400 hectares of freehold land would be subject to conservation covenants, which restrict activities such as grazing, vegetation clearance and burning. The rest of the pastoral lease would become freehold without conditions.

Submissions close on 27 January 2020.

Make a submission on the Glenaray Station tenure review


The agency chief executives with the rūnanga chairs and leaders outside Te Hapa o Niu Tīreni.

Working together to protect the Mackenzie

Over the last few months, the five agencies in the Mackenzie Basin Agency Alignment Programme continue to make good progress towards working in Treaty partnership with local rūnanga to protect the iconic Mackenzie landscape, its water quality and precious flora and fauna.

The agencies are Mackenzie District Council, Waitaki District Council, Environment Canterbury, the Department of Conservation and LINZ. We have developed plan guidelines to highlight the responsibilities for each agency. 

Below is a short update on some of our significant projects.   

Treaty partnerships in Te Manahuna

The five agencies have been working with three rūnanga, Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua, Te Rūnanga o Waihao, and Te Rūnanga o Moeraki, in the Mackenzie to form an enduring partnership embedded in Treaty principles.

In September, chief executives met with rūnanga chairs and representatives at Arowhenua Marae mana ki te mana. The chief executives were warmly welcomed and engaged in discussions about how we can work together to deliver the alignment programme. A number of commitments were made on the day including to organise a hui with ministers, mayors and the chair of Environment Canterbury in March.

This day represented a strong commitment to a new way of working with our Treaty partners in Te Manahuna.

Photograph of snowy mountains over the plains of the Mackenzie Basin

Map Viewer

LINZ is currently piloting the map viewer among the agencies before a wider public release in the coming months.

The viewer will act as a central location linking all information relating to the Mackenzie, including consents, land tenure and special features, and will enable more transparent decision-making to help protect the iconic landscape, water quality and indigenous flora and fauna.

Improvements to Lake Dunstan campsites

LINZ responsible camping portfolio manager Richard Summerlee outlines some of the changes we’ve made to our Lake Dunstan campsites.

Our Lake Dunstan camp sites are ready for the arrival of campers this summer.

Thanks to funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), secured by the Central Otago District Council (CODC), we have added temporary toilets and increased rubbish collection at our four popular lakefront sites to cope with increased visitor numbers.

Since 2015, visitor numbers have increased every year, and last season around 34,000 vehicles passed through our sites between October and April.

It’s great that more and more people are enjoying using our sites, and increased rubbish collection and additional toilet facilities will help ensure the areas are kept clean and tidy.

We have also installed vehicle counters to track the number of visitors through our sites and will continue with the education and monitoring programme which was trialled last summer, as we found this worked really well.

Monitoring is already underway at the sites to ensure campers are acting responsibly and not exceeding the maximum night stay periods. If campers stay longer than they should, they will be asked to move on.

We are also working closely with CODC to develop a responsible camping strategy for the region, which is expected to be in place next summer.

We were pleased with the behaviour of campers at our sites last season and hope to see a repeat of that this summer. 

Meet the team – Farewell Murray Mackenzie

Photograph of Murray Mackenzie
Murray during a visit to Ferintosh Station.

In each edition of High Country Matters, we profile a different member of the pastoral team. This time we are featuring Murray Mackenzie who has recently retired after nearly five decades with LINZ and its predecessors.

All our portfolio managers for the South Island high country have a close affinity with the land, but for recently retired Murray, it’s in his blood.

Murray, who has spent 48 years working for LINZ and its predecessor, the Department of Lands and Survey, is related to the legendary James Mackenzie, in whose honour the Mackenzie Country is named.

Murray says he was attracted to working at Lands and Survey as he was always interested in property as he was growing up, possibly because his father also worked in the industry. He also puts his strong connection to the land down to his rural heritage and his Scottish ancestors, who were shepherds.  

One of his most memorable projects was the sale of 522 residential sections and houses in Cromwell on behalf of the Department of Land Information in 1990. Around 100 houses were sold for removal. It was during this time that Lake Dunstan was filled with water and landscaping was completed around the lake.  

Another highlight was assisting with acquiring lessees' interests in two pastoral leases for conservation purposes - Island Hill and Kilbride on Stewart Island.

Murray witnessed several significant changes over the course of his career. One of the biggest was the restructure of Lands and Survey in 1987, which saw the formation of the Department of Conservation and two new state-owned enterprises Landcorp and Terralink, along with the new Department of Survey and Land Information.

Murray has enjoyed travelling to some of the most iconic locations in New Zealand and the relationships he has developed with farmers, local authorities, and LINZ staff.

The High Country Advisory Group

The High Country Advisory Group (HCAG) met in November for their final meeting of the year, to discuss priorities for 2020.

LINZ Deputy Chief Executive of Crown Property, Jerome Sheppard, gave the group an update on the process and timing for the Crown Pastoral Land Act (CPLA) policy work, discussed baseline monitoring of inherent values and the pastoral inspection programme.

Mr Sheppard says the group provided helpful advice on what information LINZ needs to monitor to know whether inherent values are being maintained – for example, vegetation cover/condition and weed/pest infestations.

“Several group members have been working with LINZ staff between meetings to look at options for obtaining this data, which will provide the foundations of a new baseline monitoring programme.”

At the meeting, LINZ also discussed its draft Biosecurity Strategy, which it intends to make public in mid-2020.

“We are focused on proactive land management, reliable information and partnerships to support our biosecurity programme, and will be prioritising our efforts on riverbeds, lakebeds and pastoral leases.”

Mr Sheppard says the group also provided useful feedback on several other issues LINZ is working on in its biosecurity programme. This ranged from addressing the impact of climate change on the spread of pests and weeds, through to the importance of coordinating control efforts, and the restoration of indigenous species following control work.

The group will meet again in February, to provide input and support the implementation of the CPLA policy work, discuss unalienated Crown land – particularly riverbeds, lakebeds and other land with ecological values – and the role of conservation covenants.

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