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February 2022 Issue
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Consultation begins on reclassifying third of DOC land

Stewardship land, such as Griffin Creek, contains areas of significant natural beauty and high conservation values. Photo: Ben Sarten Imagery

The government is consulting on a new law which will change how stewardship land – a third of the DOC estate – will be reclassified.

About 2.7m hectares, or 9 per cent of the country, is classified as stewardship land, a kind of holding pen for conservation land yet to be assessed for its conservation values.

The land has lower protection than other conservation land and needs to be assessed before it can gain greater protection, like becoming part of a national park, or being sold.

However, DOC’s slow pace in assessing such land has been repeatedly criticised and the government has formed two expert panels to fast-track the process. This was announced last May, but Ngāi Tahu said it wasn’t consulted and took DOC to court. The iwi now has its own panel, sitting alongside two national panels which will first assess large areas of land in the South Island. 

Consultation on the proposal is now open and submissions close on March 18.

Conservation groups have called for greater protection for all stewardship land, while others would like to see what they view as low-value conservation land, to be sold or opened to mining or farming. The issue is particularly contentious on the West Coast, where 85 per cent of the land is in the DOC estate.

Federated Farmers has welcomed the review and has previously called on the conservation minister “to identify land administered by DOC that was better suited to private ownership”. It said grazing low value conservation land could be a cheap way to keep down weeds like wilding pines. 

Westland mayor Bruce Smith has criticised the panel as being “made up of 100 per cent conservation people” and would like to see some areas with low conservation value be opened to mining.