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Mackenzie drylands protection takes step forward

The legal protection of 11,800 hectares of land as new conservation land is a step towards protecting the fragile drylands of Te Manahuna/the Mackenzie Basin

Minister of Conservation and Land Information Eugenie Sage says, “The new conservation land will come under the korowai or cloak of Tū Te Rakiwhānoa Drylands, a collaborative initiative between the Crown, manawhenua, and landholders. It aims to foster active protection and management of significant lower altitude areas in the Mackenzie and Waitaki Basins to protect the area’s stunning landscape values and ensure native plants and wildlife can thrive.”

The establishment of Tū Te Rakiwhānoa Drylands was made possible by a Nature Heritage Fund (NHF) purchase of part of high country station Ōhau Downs; the transfer of management of the Tasman Riverbed to the Department of Conservation (DOC); and completion of tenure reviews for Simons Pass and Twin Peaks pastoral leases.

The basin floor areas being protected as part of Tū Te Rakiwhānoa Drylands include:

  • 4,100 hectares of unoccupied Crown land in the Tasman riverbed, home to many important species including nationally vulnerable wrybill/ngutu pare and nationally endangered black-fronted tern/tarapirohe. It has been transferred by Land Information NZ to DOC to become public conservation land.
  • 1,792 hectares of glacial outwash lands at Ōhau Downs purchased by the Nature Heritage Fund from Kees Zeestraten. They include the most extensive intact sequences of landforms created by glacial deposits in New Zealand, and tarns, wetland and freshwater complexes with nationally important ecological and landscape values.
  • 3,132 hectares of the Simons Pass pastoral lease (around 56 percent of the pastoral lease) being restored to full Crown ownership to become conservation land, through tenure review. This is more than double the land area originally proposed to become conservation land through tenure review. Simons Pass leaseholders Murray and Barbara Valentine agreed to an additional 1,200 hectares of freehold land along the Pukaki and Tekapo rivers being purchased to become conservation land.
  • 1,631 hectares of the Twin Peaks pastoral lease being restored to full Crown ownership to become conservation land as a result of tenure review, including a 138 hectare scientific reserve protecting one of the last remaining outwash plains in Omarama.

“There is a long path ahead to safeguard the distinctive character of the natural landscapes of the Mackenzie and Waitaki Basins and ensure we reach the point where indigenous plants and wildlife thrive alongside a prosperous human community. This announcement is another step on that journey” said Eugenie Sage.