by Kevin Hague
The Green Party is calling for a halt to the tenure review process immediately as critically threatened plants and ecosystems are ploughed into pasturelands and lifestyle blocks. The process must be opened up to allow public scrutiny of the land deals before they go through. Without a clear national vision of how to protect these unique flora and fauna, we’ll lose them forever.
Tenure review in the South Island means that former public lands leased to high-country farmers are now up for sale, often at prices well below a true market value.
But value for money is not what is crucially at stake here. The South Island land in question includes valley floor tussock lands, scrublands, and wetlands — all rare and unique native ecosystems that are not represented in the wider conservation estate. The best of this high-country land now needs to move into public ownership along with the funding for DOC to manage it.
The National Party are right to point the finger at Labour’s record on biodiversity loss while in Government. Labour did little to stem the tsunami of land conversions from precious tussock lands to introduced grasses to support intensive farming, despite intense opposition from the Greens.
Then, as now, we are calling for a halt to the tenure review process. Forest and Bird are also calling for this. The Key Government’s complacent mantra of balancing economic growth with environmental protection is missing a crucial note of urgency for, according to Landcare Research, “agricultural intensification over the last 10 years has led to the highest rate of native vegetation loss since European colonisation.” When extinction is forever, the balance needs to be clearly tipped to favour our natural capital over our industrial capital in these unique and beautiful places.