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Protecting our precious places

About covenanting

What is a National Trust open space covenant?

A National Trust open space covenant is a legally binding protection agreement that is registered on the title of the land. It is voluntary but once in place binds the current and all subsequent landowners. 

Each covenant is unique. It can apply to the whole property or just part of the property. 

There can be different management areas within a covenant with varying applicable conditions. Conditions can be stringent where rare or vulnerable natural features or habitats are being protected.

Open space covenants are generally in perpetuity though there can be a case for a variable term covenant.

Variable term covenant agreements

These include:

  • Kawenata, on Māori land, which recognises tino rangatiratanga
  • Life of the Trees where individual trees occur in a situation where they may not be self-regenerating

Other agreements

The National Trust has on occasion agreed landscape protection agreements on areas of land without a title, such as roadside areas. These agreements are non-binding.

Private property rights

Private property rights are not jeopardised by a covenant - the landowner retains ownership and management of the land. Visitor access is available only with the landowner's prior permission.

Managing a National Trust open space covenant

The National Trust helps landowners with the ongoing management of their covenant. A management plan may be prepared with the landowner when a covenant is established, which sets out ongoing management objectives and provides guidance on such aspects as species management, pest control and restoration methods.

A Regional representative visits each covenant regularly, usually every 2 years, to monitor its condition and trends, identify and address any threats, and advise the owner about how to meet the covenant objectives.

Changes of ownership

While approximately 50% of open space covenants have changed hands at least once, change of ownership has not affected the adherence to covenant requirements.

Regular monitoring shows that practically all subsequent owners care for their covenant and comply with the covenant terms and conditions.

Monitoring covenants

A National Trust regional representative visits each covenant every second or third year to monitor its condition. These visits are a valued opportunity to meet with landowners, share their pleasure in observing positive change, discuss any worries they have and work out together the best ways of managing their covenants.

Monitoring shows the majority of covenants not only meet the terms and conditions of the covenant agreement but exceed them.

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