EDS challenges tenure review process in Mackenzie Country

In an extensive submission to Land Information New Zealand on the tenure review proposal for Simons Pass Station in the Mackenzie Country, the Environmental Defence Society says it has identified fundamental errors of law in how decisions are being made on tenure review.

The Environmental Defence Society (EDS), a non-governmental organisation, says it is concerned that such errors have been persistent through a number of recent tenure reviews.

“It appears that recent decisions have been based on inadequate and outdated information which brings the reasonableness of those decisions into question. It seems impossible for decision-makers to conclude that the objects of tenure review are being achieved if they don’t have access to the right information,” noted EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

EDS has noted its concern that decision-makers are taking into account a Cabinet Minute which redefines the purpose of the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 to emphasise economic values at the expense of ecological ones. “Having regard to that Minute alone has likely led to unlawful decisions on recent tenure reviews”, said Mr Taylor.

He said the public interest is not being well served with the entire tenure review process. Land that should be handed over to DOC for protection and management is being freeholded to the leaseholder at an “outrageously low price”. In many instances it is being on-sold “for massive profit or developed into intensive dairying, a questionable land use in the high altitude of the Mackenzie Basin”.

The result, he said, is rapid and wide-spread degradation and loss of internationally, nationally, and regionally unique and threatened ecosystems and their endemic plants and animals. “If tenure review continues down its current path our expert ecological evidence has concluded that it will make a fundamental contribution to their demise and the landscape will be dominated by pivot irrigators”.

A moratorium was recommended by the Environment Court in its recent decision on Plan Change13 to the Mackenzie District Plan. However, that recommendation has been ignored to date.

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The Court’s jurisdiction under section 293