Iwi oppose reclassification of South Island whenua as DoC land

By Contributor

Paparoa Track / Jason Blair, DOC

By Brendon McMahon, Local Democracy Reporter

West Coast iwi will be opposing extension of national parks in the region through the stewardship land review process, the West Coast Regional Council has heard.

A staff report to the resource management committee this week noted the proposed reclassification of 504 pieces of stewardship land in the region.

Public submissions close on July 26.

The review proposes reclassification of land not formally included in the Department of Conservation (DOC) estate when it was formed in 1987 but set aside as 'stewardship land'. Some was previously logged or modified.

The uncertain status of stewardship land has been contentious and the review has been criticised after it was suddenly announced last year by the then acting conservation minister Ayesha Verrall.

Map of West Coast stewardship land review proposals / West Coast Regional Council

Map of West Coast stewardship land review proposals Photo: West Coast Regional Council

A mana whenua panel was convened after Ngāi Tahu took court action against the minister, and the West Coast Conservation Board was not consulted.

Acting council planning and science manager Rachel Vaughan said some parcels of land were proposed as national park and other areas would require some other form of classification.

Councillor and committee chair Stuart Challenger said he was particularly interested in the implications for land parcel use resulting from the proposed reclassifications, aside from that to be disposed of.

"Where can we go to see what those implications are?"

Vaughan said generally the biggest changes were to 'conservation park' or some other classification.

However "prescriptive" measures associated with the Reserves Act would have a bearing.

"It actually has quite a few implications ... it changes things quite significantly."

Councillor Peter Ewen said it would be good to see on a map where the 18ha of land proposed to be sold were located.

Councillor Laura Coll-McLaughlin noted a difference between the statement that some land "will become national park" and the fact it had come forward as a recommendation from the National Panel reports.

"The Manawhenua Panel is not recommending that. That is contrary to the tribal position ... that is still quite a live issue I would imagine given the difference in recommendation," she said.

Resource consent committee iwi representative Jackie Douglas said the results of the review and how it might track should not be taken for granted.

"We are opposed to extensions of national parks via the stewardship land reclassification. Part of that opposition is it precludes us in our desires, if you like, to act in a proper manner as guardians."

Vaughan said there was implications in being able to acknowledge this through reserves classifications in the current legal framework

Councillor Debra Magner said she thought there was going to be some recommendation that grazing licence areas, for example, were going to be vested in Ngāi Tahu.

Vaughan said there had been an ongoing discussion with DOC regarding "special classification" for land and the need for cultural classification.

"That hasn't been given effect within the (current) legislation so the recommendations remains based on what was available within the current legislation, which was one of the points that this council made in the submission; that the classification of the West Coast land was premature."

This was because the review of the 1987 Conservation Act had not yet occurred.

Vaughan said, because the West Coast stewardship review was rolled out before the underlying legislation was overhauled, there would be anomalies given the current law did not give effect to aspects such as "cultural values" or "socio economic values".

"It's a criticism of the process," she said.

*Manawhenua panel member Paul Madgwick is also editor of the Greymouth Star.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air