How much will Molesworth cost?

January 15, 2018

The Department of Conservation is consulting on the Molesworth Station management plan.

Molesworth is an iconic high-country station. It is owned by the public of New Zealand and managed by DOC on your behalf.

The Station became a recreation reserve in 2005. It has many values, including heritage, conservation, cultural and recreation.

Managing Molesworth

Molesworth is currently managed as a working high-country station through a farming lease and grazing licence to Landcorp. The farming lease expires in 2020.

A management plan for Molesworth was approved in 2013. Its intention was to transition Molesworth from its traditional focus on farming to include more recreation and conservation activities.

The plan puts restrictions on public access in order to meet farming requirements. It may be necessary to manage recreational activity to protect conservation goals for natural, cultural and historic reasons, and to protect the recreational experience of other users.

DOC sees potential in working collaboratively with others on landscape-scale restoration in Molesworth. It is a biodiversity hotspot for a wide range of dryland animal and plant species. It also faces challenges from pests and significant weed problems such as wilding conifers. . . 

We were on Molesworth a few years ago and horrified by the spread of wilding pines. The spread of hieracium was also a visible problem.

DOC wants people’s thoughts on

  • how Molesworth is currently managed
  • how you think the range of values on Molesworth should be managed into the future
  • future opportunities or improvements to the way Molesworth is managed.

You’ll find the survey here.

Molesworth’s values include heritage, conservation, cultural and recreation.

Farming fits with heritage, conservation and cultural values and doesn’t have to exclude recreation. It also generates income, although that doesn’t mean it makes a profit for either Landcorp which leases the property, or DOC.

Profit, or loss, is something which isn’t addressed in the survey. What will implementing the plan for Molesworth cost and who will pay for it?

Recreation and conservation values are important but how much income, if any, will they generate?

Grazing helps curb weeds and farm staff can help control rabbits, possums and other pests which threaten native flora and fauna as part of their daily work.

If conservation and recreation replace farming, there won’t be an automatic return to nature as it was before the settlers came. Introduced weeds and pests will flourish with no stock and farm workers to control them.

The tussock has been disappearing from the top of the Lindis Pass since DOC took over the management land after the farm released it under tenure review. That is because hieracium is flourishing as fertility drops and no stock graze it before seed heads form. Without a comprehensive, and expensive, weed control plan, Molesworth will face a similar issue with introduced weeds.

Another potential problem is an increase in the risk of fire with growth uncontrolled by stock and more recreational visitors.

Molesworth is considered an iconic high country station.

Farming doesn’t have to be inconsistent with recreation and conservation.

Furthermore it could generate income to offset some of the costs, lessen the fire danger and contribute more to weed and pest control.

 


HIgh country farmers can irrigate

August 25, 2012

High country farmers have had their right to irrigate upheld by the High Court:

Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society took corporate farmer Five Farms and the Waitaki District Council to court for a judicial review of the council’s granting “conditional certificates of compliance” to high country farming operations.

The practice allows farmers to avoid requiring a resource consent to develop their land, but with restrictions on native vegetation clearance. The WDC case involves farmland also designated as part of the WDC’s scenic rural zone.

Forest & Bird was successful on other issues, getting the conditional certificates declared “illegal” and established “at the least the possibility of vast tracts of indigenous vegetation in areas where the proposed activities were to be undertaken.”

Planned arable cropping in the area did constitute native vegetation clearance, Justice Christine French ruled.

She agreed, as did all counsel, that native vegetation in the dry Waitaki Valley environment would disappear within a year or two, if not months, once an area became irrigated.

But the WDC’s rules did not specifically nominate irrigation as a cause of native vegetation clearance.

Whether irrigated or not farming will have an impact on the land. But what would happen if the area wasn’t farmed at all?

Nature isn’t static. Not far from this area is the Linids Pass scenic reserve. The glorious golden tussocks thrived there when the land owned by farmers who grazed and top dressed it. Now it is under DOC control and has no stock or fertiliser the tussock is disappearing.

It might be replaced by whatever was there before it was farmed in time – but at the moment it looks like the only thing growing is hieracium.


Where has all the tussock gone?

February 10, 2012

A couple of years ago I asked where had the tussock gone?

There is even less tussock on the hills at the summit of the Lindis Pass now.

This land has been returned to the crown under tenure review and is managed by DOC.

The aim of the Lindis Pass Conservation Trust is to rid Lindis Pass Reserve of weeds, so that the snow tussock (Chionochloa rigida) can be enjoyed in its full glory. 

When it was farmed it was covered in tussock, now as these photos show it is not.

Is it an accident or deliberate?

Could the lack of stock and fertiliser have let hieracium and other weeds crowd out the tussock?

Does it mean that some of this sensitve land is really better farmed than not?

What’s going to save the hills from erosion by wind, rain and snow now the tussock cover has gone?


Where have all the tussocks gone?

March 17, 2010

If you’re as casual about details as my farmer and I are and travel a route often you don’t necessarily register changes.

But for several months now every time we’ve gone over the Lindis Pass we’re sure that we’re seeing fewer tussocks.

The hills we remember being covered in gold are rapidly going bald.

This can’t be blamed on stock. The land was retired under the tenure review process and is now part of the conservation estate under DOC’s stewardship.

Is this a conincidence or the cause?

Could it be that the stock, rather than harming the tussock helped preserve it?

Did sheep and cattle graze species which compete with tussock and/or did their dung provide nutrients for the tussocks themselves or bugs which fostered tussocks and frustrated competitors?

Is something attacking the tussock?

Or are our memories faulty and were the hills never gold?


What’s a view worth?

January 28, 2009

What is the value of a view and how much should you pay for it?

 

If you are a tramper or climber it is priceless and you pay little or nothing for it. If you are involved in tourism or film making it is worth a lot and what you pay for it depends on negotiation. If you want a scenic hideaway it is worth even more and the market generally ensures you pay what it’s worth to you when buying it. If, however, you are grazing sheep, cattle or deer on crown pastoral leasehold property it is not worth much.

 

That is not to say that farmers do not appreciate the often spectacular views on and from their properties, but the average pastoral lease allows a leaseholder to do nothing else but farm. While a grand vista might make advertising fodder it does not feed animals; and a sheep or cattle beast is going to be worth no more if it grazed in beautiful surroundings.

 

This was the reasoning which has governed rent reviews for pastoral leases. They are based on land exclusive of improvements and until now that has been taken to be the land as it was before it was settled.

 

We have a very good idea of exactly what that is because our pastoral leasehold property boundaries a large tract of reserve which is owned by the crown and administered by DOC. On our side of the fence is pasture, tussock and some bush. We spend a lot on weed and pest control and it shows. On the other side of the fence there is tussock and bush too but there is also scrub and lots of weeds.

 

We run about 10 stock units to the hectare on our farm; the DOC land would struggle to support one sheep or cattle beast in many hectares and that poor animal would be competing with the rabbits, possums, pigs and deer.

 

A crown pastoral lease precludes the lessee from realising any potential for subdivision for building purposes or any commercial or industrial use. The leases also have restrictive land use controls so lessees who wanted to do anything else on their property except graze it require permission from the commissioner of crown lands and the rent would increase to take account of any diversification.

 

This has been regarded as fair to both lessees and the crown since the Land Act of 1948. But the Labour Government believed that amenity values were part of the unimproved value and rents should reflect that.

 

There is no doubting the beauty of the high country but it is subjective. One set of eyes might delight in the uninterrupted view of tussock; another will see weeds between the golden clumps and recognise fire danger in uncontrolled growth.

 

Beauty also changes with the weather. We love our leasehold property but it is at the end of the aptly named Mount Misery Road and the beauty is difficult to appreciate in a howling blizzard or when you can’t see past your nose because of fog.

 

The idea that anyone should pay more to lease farm land because of the views from which they earn nothing at all is ludicrous.

 

But the previous Government changed the rules which forced some leaseholders to pay more than they can possibly generate from pastoral farming because their properties have views from which they get no financial return. Labour thought a view was worth more than a livelihood so a group of pastoral lessees has taken a test case on the issue to the Land Valuation Tribunal.

 

It’s the final day of the hearing today but the change of government may make the judgement academic anyway because National’s agriculture policy stated that it would ensure the sertting of high country rents was tied to earning capacity so runholders could maintain their properties at an acceptable level.


Two of those days

July 7, 2008

Katherine Mansfield said it so much better than I could: It was one of those days, so clear, so still, so silent you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.

I’m not sure if I’ve got that word perfect, though I ought to have because it’s on a Marg Hamilton painting which hangs on our living room wall. But that’s at home while I’m in Wanaka and in awe of the scenery which brought the quote to mind.

We’ve had not one but two of those days. Yesterday we drove tup the Waitaki Valley and through the Lindis Pass, which no matter its mood is beautiful.

In Wanaka we called on friends whose living room window frames the view straight up the lake to the mountains, scenery so stunning it makes you wonder why you’d ever bother to go anywhere else.

Today we left Wanaka by starlight to go to Southland. Our route took us down via Alexandra to Ettrick then south through West Otago to Gore. The views there may not be as awe inspiring as the ones round Wanaka, but there is beauty in those gently rolling, bright green paddocks.

We did a whistle-stop tour of farms at Otahutit, Riverton and Dipton before turning north again up SH6 which follows Lake Wakatipu from Kingston to Frankton. We were treated to many more Mansfield moments as the late afternoon sun spot-lit snow clad hills and reflected them back on the water.

Tussocks poked cheeky heads through the snow as we climbed up the Crown Range then down through the Cardrona Valley and back to Wanaka to marvel again at the breathtaking combination of mountains, snow and lake in the sunset.

Two of those days, and the clear, starry sky is promising a third tomorrow.


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