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Protecting our precious places

Extraordinary high country landscape to be protected forever

 MEDIA RELEASE

5 August 2014

Extraordinary high country landscape to be protected forever

Today in Arrowtown, Queen Elizabeth II National Trust and Soho Property Limited announced New Zealand’s largest private land protection agreement ever.

At around 53,000 hectares, the land to be protected by National Trust covenants is equal in size to the combined areas of Paparoa and Abel Tasman national parks. It will protect iconic high country over most of Motatapu, Mount Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak stations. 

The stations cover a large part of the country between Lake Wanaka and Arrowtown and are bordered by the Shotover River and the Cardrona Valley.

The covenants will protect outstanding high country landscapes, the habitat of unique native plants and animals, and important historic and recreation values that New Zealanders can enjoy forever.

National Trust Chair James Guild says it is truly inspirational to see the commitment and personal investment made by an overseas investor to care for this iconic New Zealand landscape. 

“The landholder’s selfless gesture goes far beyond any Overseas Investment Office (OIO) requirements.

“It protects a vast area of iconic Central Otago landscape and opens up opportunities for the public to get up into the high country and enjoy the unique experiences this sort of environment offers,” he says.

As well as formalising the public access tracksrequired by the OIO, the landholder and the National Trust are working with the New Zealand Walking Access Commission, the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Queenstown Trails Trust, and local walking and mountain biking groups to create further public access opportunities, he says.

New Zealand Walking Access Commission Chairman John Forbes says the formalising of existing routes and creation of new walking tracks would provide a unique opportunity for locals and overseas tourists to visit part of New Zealand that boasts spectacular scenery and is rich in history.

“I acknowledge and appreciate the generosity of the landholder and the collaborative approach of the National Trust, the Queenstown Lakes District Council, Department of Conservation and others to enable this opportunity. 

“New Zealand Walking Access Commission will continue working with the Commissioner of Crown Lands to secure recreational access to this part of the country for current and future generations,” he says.

Mr Guild emphasised that covenanting land is voluntary and not a requirement of the OIO or government. None of these stations are involved in tenure review.

Over and above OIO requirements, Soho Property Limited is investing significant sums to control wilding pines, weeds; goats, possums and mustelids. It has major planting programmes on river margins; has fenced off waterways, wetlands, tussocklands and shrublands areas. It is working with Ngai Tahu and the Department of Conservation on reintroducing native buff weka to the area and it has retired almost all previously farmed areas with the exception of valley floors that can sustain sheep grazing.

New Zealand falconImportant montane and alpine tussocklands, cushion fields, wetlands, shrublands, rocky outcrops, and rare and endangered native plants and animals, such as whipcord hebe, a native dandelion, several species of gecko, New Zealand falcon, and kea will all be protected.

The land has a rich history—the area has cultural significance to Ngai Tahu, was right at the centre of the Otago gold rush, and has a 125-year tradition of pastoral farming. There are many archaeological sites recorded on the stations. 

Recreational uses include trekking, 4WD trips, mountain biking, tramping, horse trekking and ski touring. The Motatapu Challenge is held annually across three of the stations, where competitors mountain bike and run marathons or triathalons along set courses and tracks. Skiers at Cardrona, Treble Cone and Coronet Peak skifields will always be able to overlook protected, unspoiled vistas. 

Mr Guild says the landholder’s actions demonstrate on a grand scale what many thousands of covenantors are doing around the country, on their own land and chiefly at their own expense, to protect natural and cultural values we treasure as a nation. 

With this proposal, the total area protected by covenantors across New Zealand will grow to over 178,000ha—an area that is about the same size as Stewart Island/Rakiura (1,746 km2).

It is expected that the covenants will be formally registered in early 2015, after survey work has been completed and processed by the Commissioner of Crown Lands. The Commissioner is responsible for administering Crown pastoral leases.

ENDS

More information

Spokesperson(s)

On behalf of the National Trust

James Guild, QEII National Trust Chair, QEII National Trust 03 318 6873

Mike Jebson, QEII National Trust Chief Executive, QEII National Trust 04 474 1683, 021 499 759

On behalf of Soho Property Limited

Russell Hamilton, 027 434 4305, 03 409 8331

Willy Sussman, 09 916 8952, 021 300 600

Media liaison

Anne McLean, QEII National Trust communications advisor 04 474 1689, 022 678 3610

amclean@openspace.org.nz

New Zealand Walking Access Commission

James Heffield - 027 703 5296 james.heffield@walkingaccess.govt.nz 

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