The largest private land protection is a significant gift to New Zealand and its come from a foreign owner:
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says today’s opening of the Mahu Whenua covenants under New Zealand’s largest ever private land protection agreement, is a significant gift to the nation.
53,000 hectares of land in central Otago has been gifted by philanthropist and music producer Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange of Soho Property Ltd, through a partnership with the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust.
“This is indeed a great day for New Zealand conservation. We are very grateful for Mutt Lange’s extraordinary generosity and vision in securing permanent protection for this unique and special landscape,” says Ms Barry.
The four open space covenants cover land on Motatapu, Mount Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak Stations, bordered by the Shotover River and the Cardrona Valley.
“The agreement not only permanently protects the natural values and human history of this landscape, but also allows for public access with 21 tracks and trails for all visitors to enjoy,” says Ms Barry.
“Congratulations to the QEII National Trust, which has been working alongside private landowners for nearly 40 years helping them protect special natural and cultural heritage places throughout the country.”
This year the National Trust will register its 4,000th open space covenant and since it was established in 1977 it has secured more than 178,000 hectares of private land to be held in trust for the nation.
The covenants were formally opened by Governor General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, on Saturday.
Sir Jerry, in a speech on Saturday, said: ”New Zealand’s isolation has seen us as a nation develop a very strong sense of place.
”For many of us, even those who live in cities, the landscape of our country, especially the high country, captures our sense of home.
”Those rugged hills and valleys, formed over the millennia, are as representative of New Zealand as the silver fern.” . .
Trust patron Sir Jerry described the covenants as a ”significant gift to New Zealand”.
He said while humankind’s presence is certainly visible now, the landscape will be here long after we are gone.
”This Maori proverb captures that idea: Toitu he whenua, whatungarongaro he tangata? The land remains while people disappear.”
Trust chairman James Guild said protection of such a large tract of private land would not have been possible without the vision and generosity of Mr Lange.
Mr Guild said: ”Mr Lange has instigated the protection of an extensive landscape that is rich in natural and cultural heritage.
”He has in effect created New Zealand’s first private national park.
”We celebrate his tremendous philanthropy and the legacy he leaves on this landscape with his covenants.”
Mr Guild said the land’s scenic and intrinsic values and the opportunity for people to get out and enjoy it are safeguarded forever.
The covenants protect the landscapes, the habitat of unique native plants and animals, important historic and cultural sites, public access, and recreation values.
Mr Guild emphasised that covenanting land is voluntary and not a requirement of the Overseas Investment Office or the Government. . .
This is a huge area of land and the covenanting is an act of extraordinary generosity on the part of its owner.
Locals have covenanted large tracts of land through the QE II Trust, although none on this scale.
The significance of this gift coming from a foreign owner is that it shows land sales to foreigners should be judged on their merits and there should not be, as some would wish it, a blanket ban on foreign ownership of land.