The Mackenzie Basin: Opportunities for Alignment report was released earlier this week. The report comes on the back of the Environment's Court's Eleventh Decision where Judge Jackson opined that there is a strong ecological (and economic) case for an immediate moratorium on freeholding of land under tenure review.

The report addresses how best to reconcile outstanding national landscape and biodiversity values with the need for land owners and communities to maintain and develop their livelihood. Balancing these two important issues are at the forefront for many in this neck of the woods following the Environment Court's recent decisions on Plan Change 13 to the Mackenzie District Plan and the recent notification of Plan Change 18 to the Mackenzie District Plan which addresses indigenous biodiversity including vegetation clearance.

Five agencies – Environment Canterbury, LINZ, Department of Conservation and the Mackenzie and Waitaki District Councils participated and 43 expert-informants were interviewed including representatives from: farming interests; environmental interests; iwi with manawhenua over the Mackenzie Basin; a wide range of officials from both central and local Government and officials from both QE2 and the Walking Access Commission.

The report identifies land use development/ vegetation cover change in the Mackenzie Basin between 2001 and 2017 and recommends actions to achieve both "short and long term wins" to find an accommodation between land use intensification and protection of ecological and landscape values. Recommendations include:

  • Joint hearings for applications involving Regional and District Councils;
  • Clarification on what the Crown seeks to achieve with the remaining tenure reviews in the Basin and the communication of this to farmers;
  • An easy-to-read guideline detailing the implications of recent plan changes;
  • Identify steps to achieve a Mackenzie Basin Dry-lands Natural Heritage Area;
  • Develop a joint land use change monitoring programme; and
  • Convening 6 monthly workshops between agency and Mackenzie Basin farming leaders

The recommendations in the report are just that - recommendations to the five agencies on how they could better align land and water management decision-making. A concerted effort will be required from all affected parties to a) adopt the recommendations and b) put them into practice. Watch this space.

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