Federated Mountain Clubs welcomes Acting Conservation Minister Ayesha Verrall’s 28 May 2021 announcement that the Government is accelerating the reclassification of stewardship land to ensure land with high conservation value is protected for future generations to enjoy.
“The Government intends to progress legislation to streamline, speed up and simplify the process so land with conservation value is identified and managed appropriately, while land with low or no conservation value can be considered for other uses.” It will also allow for more efficient public consultation.
Initially, two independent expert national panels are being established, with their initial focus being on the Northern South Island and Western South Island. At this stage it is anticipated it will take about eight months for each panel to undertake their work and provide recommendations. Further details on public consultation will be announced in due course.
While this is just the start of the process to honour stewardship land with the status and protection it deserves, and there may be pitfalls in passing legislation for “efficiency”, it is nonetheless an extremely pleasing start.
What is stewardship land (aka Forgotten Lands)?
“Stewardship land” is land that is managed by the Department of Conservation, and whose values are yet to be assessed. It is classified as ‘Conservation Areas’ under the Conservation Act 1987, and is managed to protect the natural and historic values present on the land.
Around 30% of all public conservation land is stewardship land; this is approximately 2,508,000 ha, or 9% of New Zealand.
It should be noted that the conservation and recreation values of stewardship land are by no means lower compared to those of other public conservation land. They simply haven’t been assessed yet. Once those values have been assessed, the land may well be reclassified as Conservation Park or National Park. In the meanwhile, the Department of Conservation has a duty to manage all stewardship land to protect its values.
The majority of stewardship land has been waiting for reclassification since the Department of Conservation was established in 1987 – hence the FMC moniker “Forgotten Lands”.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, released a report into the management and administration of stewardship land in 2013. The report identified that much land held in stewardship was of high conservation value.
Stewardship land that was recently reclassified includes additions to the Ahuriri Conservation Park in 2o18, to the Korowai / Torlesse Tussocklands Park also in 2018, and the addition of the Mokihinui catchment to Kahurangi National Park in 2019.
Forgotten Lands campaign: FMC’s push for the reclassification of stewardship land
FMC responded to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s 2013 report by launching its Forgotten Lands campaign the year after, and has actively been pushing for the reclassification of stewardship land ever since.
Significant milestones in our Forgotten Lands campaign include the following:
- Launch of the Remarkables National Park campaign in 2017
- The reclassification of the Mokihinui catchment and its addition to Kahurangi National Park in 2019
- Launch of the “Wild Rivers park” campaign in 2020
- Submission on the reclassification of the Kawarau / Remarkables Conservation Area in 2021
FMC will be following the process closely and ensure we are involved in order to obtain the best outcome for the protection of our stewardship land’s conservation and recreation values.
Photo at top: Tramping on the Mataketake Range tops, South Westland. This mountain range offers outstanding recreation opportunities and is currently classified as ‘stewardship land’. Photo (c) Danilo Hegg