Govt must ‘sort out’ conservation land in limbo – PCE

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright,  is calling on the government to “sort out” land classed as ‘stewardship land’ —  a poorly protected category of conservation land in New Zealand.

Dr Wright has expressed her concerns in a new report, Investigating the future of conservation: The case of stewardship land, which was released this morning.

Stewardship land was originally intended to be a holding category for conservation land that was yet to be classified as another category or taken out of the conservation estate. As such, the criteria for protecting the land is relatively vague, and current policy allows the government to ‘swap’ areas of stewardship land for private land.

Dr Wright notes that many areas of stewardship land — which makes up a third of the total conservation estate —  hold high conservation value, and should be better protected.

In her report, the commissioner, recommends that new policy be developed to more clearly outline the protection of stewardship land, and that areas of stewardship land that warrant higher protection be identified and protected through reclassification.

“I have no doubt we will see more commercial use of the conservation estate in the future,” Dr Wright said in a media release, “and it is vital that these issues around stewardship land be resolved to provide greater certainty for both conservation and business.”

Media coverage of the report includes:

Yahoo! NZ News: Govt missing opportunity to expand national parks
Marlborough Express: DOC land seen as ‘open for business’
Radio New Zealand: Commissioner bewails poor legal rules for DoC land
MSN NZ News: Protection of stewardship land needed
TVNZ News: Large tracts of Conservation Estate ‘at risk’
New Zealand Herald: Commissioner: NZ conservation land ‘open for business’