Protection and some conservation of indigenous biodiversity on private land in New Zealand, mainly through the mechanisms provided by the Queen Elisabeth the Second Trust, the Nga Whenua Rahui fund, the Nature Heritage Fund; all adminstered the State Department of Conservation, were discussed in a forty-minute radio broadcast on Monday 18th June 2001. National parks are mentioned but not the matter of the Timberlands West Coast forest. Wetlands, coastland and forest are given priority.



A generic term for tree ferns in New Zealand. Weka
A flightless rail bird endemic to New Zealand. About the size of a domestic fowl. Very inquisitive and clever. Gallirallus australis
Creek A small stream or rivulet - or even a big one. Morepork One species of Owl indigenous to New Zealand and Australia. Ninox novaeselandiae
Tuis (plural) A black, large, nectar-feeding NZ bird with a distinctive, melodious song. Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae Rifleman A diminutive, tree-hole nesting wren, endemic to New Zealand. Acanthisitta chloris
Bush, native bush Indigenous New Zealand forest or scrubland Cut-over bush Indigenous New Zealand forest that has been logged by a process of clear-felling of merchantable trees, leaving most of the rest exposed.
Totara A podocarp (conifer) tree, endemic to New Zealand, which attains great age and size. Wood has valued specialised uses.
Podocarpus totara
DOC Department of Conservation - a department of State, with responsibilty for conservation on State land.
kaitiaki Goldie A major early New Zealand painter in oils.


Radio New Zealand National Programme, (Funded by New Zealand on Air) Monday 18 June 2001; 9.06pm.

In tonight's programme, Melanie Thornton looks at why private landowners are foregoing economic profit, and setting aside their land for conservation.

(Crunch of boots through undergrowth)

Female voice - American accent:
This is my favourite area that we are coming into. Coming back down through the bush - to the creek, and hearing the creek still roaring in this. And with all these tall tall trees; we've got some pungas that reach up - I dunno - 20 metres - 30 metres ? wonderfully high things.

And all these ferns; always have wekas that come out of the bush here and peck around me whenever I come this way. We've got glow-worms in our creek - along the creek-bed walls. Umm - it's just so alive here. Got morepork on the land. Umm - tuis nesting out here, and riflemen nesting.

Interviewer: (Cultured female NZ voice)
To most New Zealanders, the face of conservation in the past, has often been one of contention.

Interjected background tape

(Telephone ringing) Voice-over from pseudo radio news announcer "A small group of protesters have said they'll try to stop the commencement today of logging operations in a section of the Pureora Forest in the Central North Island where some of the country's most magnificent totara trees are found. Some of the trees (voice-over Brrm Brrm sound of chainsaw motor being operated) are estimated as over a thousand years old." (Sound of a small pine tree being felled and branches breaking and crunching as they impact with the ground.)

But more recently the flagship of conservation has been National Parks. They're there for all of us to enjoy, and for future generations to enjoy when we're gone.

New Zealand is to get its 14th National Park: 85% of Stewart Island will form the Rakiura National Park, making it the country's only island National Park.

But there's another face of conservation, and it's one not widely recognised for its level of activity or contribution to the conservation estate.

And that's protection of private land.

This is land that can't be visited like a National Park, but is being held in private hands (Start of voice-over of tui bird-song) for the public good.

Female American voice.
I'm Jo-Marie Lane. When we first decided that we wanted to emigrate to New Zealand our goal was always to get as much land as we could to put into a permanent trust of some sort. ( End of tui voice-over) Umm - probably for both of us our life passion has been wilderness. And we sort of strongly believe that the earth needs pieces of untouched land that will be forever be preserved for the critters and for humans, in the future generations.

So - when we moved to New Zealand - we came for a year before we actually found the land, and looked, and found this piece of land in the Marlborough Sounds right away. Umm - and said "This was IT".

It's fifty acres of land, mostly regenerating bush, on the coast. Umm and it's a beautiful, beautiful piece.

With the help of the Queen Elizabeth the Second National Trust, Jo and her husband John Broomfield, created a QE II covenant last year, which is a legally binding agreement to protect land in perpetuity. The Trust is an independent organisation, which was initially set up to assist farmers to preserve parts of their land.

Jo Lane.
I really like how they worked with us on this land. Umm - I had a lot of reservations. It's scary, having somebody come in and say "I'm going to tell you what you have to do with your land."

Um - so it took me several years of dithering to finally make the call and go with it. The QE II people were wonderful in working with us on that - on what we wanted and needed for our particular needs.

For example, we're out in the middle of no-where. We are three hours' drive from our nearest small city which is Nelson. So we need to be able to cut firewood here. Um - so they gave us a special permit for that - and written into our covenant.

They talked with us about how we wanted to control possums. They talked with us about how they wanted us to control Um native Um - pests in terms of plants. Um. And we just worked out things that would suit US as land-owners, and so that was a real big Plus.

(Voice-over of dairy cows lowing in the microphone)

West Coast farmer Dave Farley's (end of cow voice-over) been farming his 300 hectare block in Rotomanu in Westland, for eleven years. He has a QE II covenant on part of his land, and recently sold 176 hectares to the Nature Heritage Fund (Voice-over of dairy cows lowing ) so that it would be protected in perpetuity.

Dave Farley: (spoken with a New Zealand drawl)
Originally when I built my house up near the native bush there was a block (end of cow voice-over) of - Aah - cut-over bush that had re- - regenerated, and I thought "Well, if I don't - ah - do something about locking that up, if I ever die or sell the farm, Um, someone'll come along and probably knock it down", and I didn't want that to happen. And that was when I first approached the Nature Heritage Fund - Um - regarding doing that. Putting a covenant on it.

But, why is it so important to protect land? And why are individuals taking it on their own shoulders to do so?

The New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy which was published last year, highlighted major concerns at the loss of areas of high ecological value.

Preserving examples of unique areas was deemed vital.

Tim Cossar is the Executive Officer with the Queen Elizabeth the Second National Trust.

Tim Cossar (Male New Zealand accent)
If we ever want to see remnants of that landscape - ah - in a hundred years' time, the only way we can do it is to protect it, fence it off, manage it, and ensure that it is there for future generations to enjoy.

As a result of the Government's Biodiversity Strategy, the loss of biodiversity on private land was seen as an on-going concern. A document called "Bio-What?" was released in February 2000, and a process of consultation undertaken to look at the issue.

A Ministerial Advisory Committee presented its final report late last year.

And when the government announced a biodiversity package of a hundred and eighty-seven million dollars, it allocated 37 million dollars of it for protection on private land. Tim Cossar again.

Tim Cossar
The landscapes that the Trust predominantly works in, is in the coastal, semi-coastal, and lowland landscapes. It is in those landscapes where the natural biodiversity of New Zealand has come under significant threat. And that's where 98% of our covenants are - in those landscapes.

So we are protecting land that's often under intense pressure from development, from subdivision, and from alternative uses. And where the land values are often at their greatest. We can be protecting a hectare of land that's worth 25 thousand dollars. Um - Plus. So, there's a heck of a lot of reasons why a landowner would want to protect - ah- nature, or natural features, in those landscapes. And it is something that the New Zealand Government has said is important as well, in their Biodiversity Strategy.

The total amount of private land protected by covenant or other legal mechanisms, is as big as one of the country's larger National Parks. QE II is one of three major organisations funded by the Government, to assist in the protection of Biodiversity on private land. And there are other mechanisms and funds available. Joris de Bres, the General Manager (External Relations), of the Department of Conservation, explains.

Joris de Bres
There is the Nature Heritage Fund itself, which is primarily a fund for purchase, although it can fund covenanting; and it is either purchase by the Department of Conservation, or by Local Authorities or Trusts - Community Trusts. Ah - the Nga Whenua Rahui fund is also administered by the Department - ah - and is focussed primarily on covenanting, in an appropriate manner for Maori land, so that it establishes covenants which buy out certain rights, for a certain period.

And then of course there's the separate authorisations of QE II National Trust, - ah - which is primarily focused on covenanting.

Mark Mohe is Executive Officer with Nga Whenua Rahui. He said the fund was set up to respond to the needs of Maori land-owners, who wanted to protect their land but were reluctant to use existing mechanisms.

Mark Mohe (Male Maori accent)
There is a huge suspicion in Maoridom - ah - with Government - um - endorsed programmes. Concerning any sort of land. So the Nga Whenua Rahui programme, even though it - um - it had a very good committee backing it, as it were, and that committee is lay-people, um - there was always that suspicion that is was just another Crown trick to get the last little bit of land from Maoridom. And - um - it was - ah - quite difficult to in the early years to put across to Maori that this was actually a good programme, and that they would actually not be losing the land - they would not be losing the control and the management of the land, and yet it would be there for future generations.

Other mechanisms include gifting land to, or the purchase of land by, trusts such as the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. It has approximately three thousand hectares protected as Reserves, under the Reserves Act. But there are others.

(Voice-over of scores of ducks quacking for grain or bread-crusts at the microphone, then a sound supposedly something like a shotgun being fired in the distance, complete with echo).

The Fish and Game Council's (end of duck voice-over) also involved in protection on private land. Mark Brittan is the Assistant Director of the Council and says its major activity is protection of habitat.

Mark Brittan (Male NZ voice)
It buys areas of wetland which it thinks are particularly important. It also gets involved in both subsidising land-owners to develop / protect / enhance wetlands, and also in many cases to help farmers develop new ponds or wetlands on their farms. So, there's the three areas that we tend to go in for.

Of the three thousand hectares of land owned by Fish and Game, a quarter of it has QE II convenants over it, though the council can issue covenants under the Reserves Act.

Mark Brittan
One of the main reasons we decided we would - we should become a body issuing our own covenants or entering our own covenants, is because when we on-sell land; say it's got a QE II National Trust convenant over it; in future the two parties involved in the covenants - are the QE II National Trust and the - the new land-owner - so Fish and Game has no on-going role in terms of how the land should be managed, whether it should be hunted, whether - what sort of protection mechanism should be there. So we decided it was best for us to get involved in doing our own covenants. Under the Reserves Act there is a mechanism for Fish and Game Councils - and other Local Authorities, to become covenantors.

Landowners can also create Private Reserves that can then be protected under the Reserves Act. This is the case with the Hinewai Reserve on Banks Peninsula, set up 20 years ago by Maurice White. Its manager is botanist Hugh Wilson.

Hugh Wilson (Male NZ accent)
It's a thousand and fifty hectares now, the initial block of land we bought was - um - only one hundred and nine hectares; Um - our dream really was to secure a sizeable chunk of - um - Akaroa Ecological District - um - preferably from summit to sea eventually but - um - at the moment we have about a thousand and fifty hectares running from about twenty metres above sea level, still a kilometre back from the coast, up to the top of um Stony Bay Peak or Tane-te-Rehu, which is one of the highest peaks above Akaroa. Our whole philosophy here is minimal interference management. We basically - um - are - create the conditions whereby Nature can just get on with it. She's been practicing for billions of years - is far better at it than we are.

Other land owners are protecting their land without going through a formal process of covenanting. The American-based "Dancing Star" Foundation bought a hundred and seventy-two hectares of land on Stewart Island late last year. the Director of the Foundation, Michael Tobias, says its plan is to protect it by leaving it un-touched.

Michael Tobias (American male accent)
Essentially do nothing with it, as a (voice-over of bellbird song in background) value in itself, to leave it be, there's nothing we could do to it that could improve it, obviously; it's perfect as it is (voice-over stops).

But the big question is, "Why do landowners want to protect their land?", foregoing any economic benefit it might bring them, and locking it up permanently. (Voice-over of a small surf breaking on a pebbly beach). John Broomfield says the land he's protected under the QE II Convenant in the Marlborough Sounds, gives him a lot of satisfaction.

John Broomfield (Male voice drawling, very reminiscent of Sam Hunt the poet launching into another oral assault on the English language)
The feeling that - um - the bush that's here now, is just the beginning of a permanent, ancient forest that will be here for ever, the feeling that you have that this medium-sized tree is just on its way, without any question, to becoming a great old tree. Um - the knowledge that the somewhat decimated - ah - birdlife of the area will strengthen consistently; will not be troubled ever again - um - and um - it just gives you a feeling of purpose. (Voice-over of surf ends)

Having protected forest at his back door, is a thrill for farmer Dave Farley.

Dave Farley
I can still sit here and look at them, along with a lot of other people - ah, I don't own them, but I still get the pleasure of - um - being able to look at them all the time.

Regional Councils are playing an increasing role in protection on private land. Under the Resource Management Act, they are responsible for providing for and managing biodiversity protection in their regions. For the last five years, the Hawkes Bay Regional Council has been working with QE II to establish covenants in Hawkes Bay. Over that time, it has spent two hundred and five thousand dollars on fifty-nine native bush covenants, and a further one hundred and forty thousand on riparian covenants, which give trees protection along river-banks. Garth Eyles is the Manager of Land Management of the Council, and says this relationship is cost-effective.

Garth Eyles
When you don't have much native bush in your region, over large areas, it becomes quite important to - from an environmental point of view - to actually try and get it protected. And as far as we are concerned, if the National Trust is willing to step in and administer the protection, it saves us from doing it. And so we are in a win-win situation. We get the area protected, - ah - the farmers keep the land, the farmers are very positive about it, and the region benefits from - ah - having this remnant native vegetation protected. The flow-on consequences from that will be -ah - more native birds, - ah-um - a transfer of native plant seeds from these protected areas out into other areas, and so we anticipate that over time, the - because of this programme, the areas of native bush will actually increase.

Despite getting funding from the Government, the Chairman of the QE II Board, Sir Paul Reeves, says there's never enough money to do the work they want to. So they are trying to get grant money from a range of sources. (Prolongued voiceover of loud pop music.)

QE II has unsuccessfully applied to the Lotteries Grants Board, and Sir Paul says there's some conflict (voice-over ceases) between the Board's Act and the QE II Act, which he'd like to see changed.

Sir Paul Reeves (Hesitant, deliberate, cultured male voice)
We cannot get direct funding for covenant projects from the Lottery Grants Board, because they are on private land. Even though our own Act says that what we do is for the benefit of all New Zealanders. Having said that, we can get Lottery Grants Board money - ah - for projects on Trust-owned properties, and some groups like the local Forest and Bird groups also get some funding to do work on open-space - ah - covenants. So, there is some confusion there, but I think the main point, from our point of view, is that the L G B believes that they cannot directly fund us for covenant projects as they are on private land.

The Minister for Conservation, Sandra Lee, hopes to deal with that conflict.

Hon. Sandra Lee
Certainly, the Lotteries Grants Board is a bit of a mystery - mystery, and it does work in - ah - strange ways sometimes, in my opinion. Having said that, I have asked my Department - ah - to have some informal discussions with the Chair, to look at how we can make sure that the approach is consistent. (Voice-over of solid hammering on wood)

(Voiceover ends) But, is enough being done to protect biodiversity on private land? Joris de Bres of DOC says that the Biodiversity strategy consultation process concluded that there is not.

Joris de Bres
The major package that has come out of the two processes, of the Biodiversity Strategy and the Bio-What? consultation process, - ah - recognises that a significant increase investment is required to change that situation. That it is not enough (and I think that's the learning process that all of us have gone through ), it is not enough to do this simply by having rules and provisions in - ah - of various kinds, in - in District Plans - in Regional Plans.

And I think one of the past issues has been that that there's been quite a lot of tension around the first generation of - ah - RMA plans, and that's where I think we've both - in one sense made progress but in another taken steps back; - ah - because people have resented some of the methods that have been used in that. And I think we all have to recognise that that was part of a learning process.

There was no Biodiversity - ah - Policy Statement in place - like there is a Coastal Policy Statement; every Council had to make up its own Rules; some of them were very arbitrary; there was a lot of hostility as a result.

I'd like to think that now we've got mechanisms like these increased funds - ah - and we've got a - coming - a Biodiversity Policy Statement, and we've got the experience of a whole generation of Regional Plans from which we have learned a lot, that the outlook is going to be much better for the next five or ten years.

But tensions still prevail in some quarters. Mark Mohe.

Mark Mohe
It's little bit unfortunate that DOC are - is sort of the - seen as the enemy by a lot of landowner. But - because they administer and are the kaitiaki for a lot of -ah - Maori lands in dispute, they are seen by many as the enemy. And our current Minister is trying to get it across to them that, no, this is New Zealanders' land, this is everybody's land, that there - that there - that it is the DOC estate - it's not, you know, so much Crown land except obviously for Parks.

Some people have questioned DOC's ability to manage its own land, let alone being responsible for managing more land being purchased under the Nature Heritage Fund. Joris de Bres says historically, that's been true.

Joris de Bres
I don't think that's an argument for not taking the opportunity, where we find it, and where it's willingly offered, - um - to make further purchases to get a more representative sample of our unique biodiversity and protect it in National Parks and Reserves. Ah - again, a lot of the Biodiversity Strategy is about providing more funding for research information, - ah - improved intervention, improved management, more fencing, and all sorts of quite pedestrian things - ah - which - which are required to better manage conservation land. So, if you are asking "Does DOC manage conservation land as well as it should - ah - or could?", the answer is "No, but we are making a damned good try and improving it and we have had a damned good boost to do so".

But three major funds coming on-stream later this year, include an increase for existing mechanisms like QE II, Nature Heritage and Nga Whenua Rahui, as well as two contestible funds. These are a Biodiversity Advisory Service fund, and a Condition Fund for weed and pest control. Some organisations question the allocation of the increase in funds coming through over the next five years. Sir Paul Reeves.

Sir Paul Reeves
Year one, we get about 18 percent, of the new money, and in year five we would get about 7 percent of the money. I've said, of course, that the figures for year three, four and five are only indicative and therefore we would be seeking to make our case known in order to increase our percentage. Aah - I find it very difficult to compare our Trust with the Nature Heritage Fund or Nga Whenua Rahui, - ah - and I'm certainly not in the business of saying that our needs are greater than their needs, but I am saying that our needs are such that we could do with more money.

Joris de Bres explains that the final allocation of these funds isn't fully decided yet. He says there is an emphasis within the allocation on purchase of land for protection, but he says that reflects the costs, not the level of importance.

Joris de Bres
There has been some degree of - ah - dissention about the two out years of the end of this process, and I think it simply needs to be made clear that a certain amount of money has yet to be fully allocated in those years, and it is currently parked in allocation of the Nature Heritage Fund. And I think that's probably caused - ah - some of the concern, and we have made it absolutely clear to both - um - Nga Whenua Rahui and and to the National Trust, that that last two-year allocation - ah - is not a final one, and it will depend really on an assessment of what the various results of the first three years of additional funding have produced.

Stephen King of the Native Forest Restoration Trust says the new funding doesn't allow for purchasing significant pieces of land linking major protected areas.

Stephen King (Male NZ accent)
Say for example, if you have a major National Park, and right in the middle there's a chunk of forestry land or farm land or something that's really 'at odds' with the rest of the land, and in fact can threaten it through - ah - creating a weed source, a pest source. It's rather like going through a gallery and - but the night before a vandal has been through and, and had a go at every Goldie that's sitting on the wall. Now if you take that Goldie, like a National Park, - um - the mark in the middle made by the vandal; it might cost you five thousand dollars to fix. Um - and um - but at the moment the Government is saying "Hey, look, we can fix the leaky roof for five thousand dollars' - um - and so the emphasis with the budgets that have come out at the moment are going into - um - buying standing forest because it's cheaper. But we need in fact to be prepared to put some money into - um - into securing those links and allowing the forest to regenerate or plant it back.

There are also questions being asked about how the new funds will actually function. Sandra Lee.

Hon. Sandra Lee, Minister of Conservation
In July of this year, - ah - they will be announcing what the general policy framework will be -

And that will mean how those funds are atually going to operate?

Hon. Sandra Lee
Indeed. And remember that will be in advance of the funds actually being applied. So there will be a good understanding what the parameters and the conditions will be, in advance of the commencement of the allocation of the funding.

The latest figures show three hundred and fifty thousand hectares of private land is protected by covenant or other legal mechanisms, representing a significant contribution by individuals to the Crown's Conservation Estate. Tim Cossar of QE II has found that some people want greater recognition for that contribution, while others don't. He says that even though it is difficult to put a dollar figure on that contribution, he's estimated how much it costs to protect QE II covenants each year.

Tim Cossar
In some rough figures I did; I think it's around, around a couple of million dollars a year, straight out. If you just look at it and say 'There's fifty-three thousand hectares of land,' and if you took the - the pest and weed management control and a number of other issues - the fencing replacement issues and those sorts of things, there would be somewhere in that order, as a rough order. But it's an incredibly difficult thing to put your finger on and say it's a specific figure or an exact figure.

Garth Eyles says the Hawkes Bay Regional Council believes it's important to what land owners, and farmers in particular, are doing by protecting land. He says, retiring land for protection means farmers aren't making any money from it, and they need some recognition for it.

Garth Eyles
The recognition, from outside, of the importance of this work, is in the form of grants to assist them to carry out the retirement. The actual money that - that QE II puts in, and we put in, means that - that famers are more willing to do it, but there's simply not enough money being provided for this to happen. And when you think that remnant vegetation is being degraded all the time while it's being grazed - while it's being grazed there's no new - new plants coming up - ah - and so the forest is getting older, and getting of poorer quality.

We haven't got that much time left to protect these areas.

In Britain and the United States considerable financial incentives are provided for protection on private land. In New Zealand it's the major funding bodies and Councils that are the sources of assistance. According to DOC, the new funds coming on-stream will go some way towards recognising the cost of protecting the values on the land, but not compensate people for having the land protected. One suggestion as a way of recognising the contribution private land protection makes, is co-ordinating all the information around the country. Tim Cossar.

Tim Cossar
There's a whole lot of points where you can go and get information, and no-one has really drawn some of those things together - in a - in a pot that says 'This is what we've got, and this is the exact position'. It's not - it hasn't been like that - certainly I haven't encountered that, and you have to - you really have to go to individual councils who often don't know what they've got themselves.

I mean they really don't know, in many instances, how many covenants they've got, um - what they're protecting, and how they are protecting them.

(New speaker - sounds like - ! ) Joris de Bres
What we are likely to see, and what we are working towards, is actually a - um - a form of database or information system that is shared between councils, - ah - government, other organisations, and individuals; in a way that isn't anybody's particular property but is shared information - ah - about biodiversity and historic and archeologic values - on public and private land.

Sandra Lee thinks private land-owners are setting an example to all New Zealanders.

Hon. Sandra Lee
Many of these private land-owners, through their own intiative, are leading the way and reminding the rest of New Zealand society, that whether we live on a quarter-acre block or a ten-acre - ah - lifestyle, or have a wet-land - ah - lapping at the edge of our property, we all have an obligation, beyond just the Department of Conservation's own estate, to make sure that we apply good conservation practice wherever we live in society.

Garth Eyles says that increasing numbers of farmers are looking at covenanting remnant areas of bush and this will have a major benefit in coming years.

Garth Eyles
I would see that in the future, this will have a very positive effect on land values. We're getting more and more restrictions or concerns by northern hemisphere markets on the state of New Zealand pasture-land; you can say, sort of a pseudo-tariff; and if farmers have got areas of protected bush on their land, that's a tick in terms of protecting the environment and farming more sustainably, I would say.


That "INSIGHT" was compiled and presented by Melanie Thornton. It was produced by Sue Ingram.