Taxpayers spend $362,000 on a kilometres-long fence to keep a farmer’s cattle from a national park. David Williams of Newsroom reports
It’s a proud and straight-forward statement.
“There is no stock grazing within Fiordland National Park,” the park’s 2007 management plan says. The problem is it’s not true – and the Department of Conservation knew it.
The park plan states the last bastion of grazing in the national park was sheep in the Eglinton Valley – that is, until a deal was struck in 1998 to remove them.
What the park plan doesn’t state, but DoC admits now, is that deal with Te Anau Downs Station contained a very important caveat.
“This agreement noted the inevitability of cattle accessing the national park until a boundary along the Eglinton River was fenced,” DoC’s Te Anau operations manager John Lucas said in a statement on Friday afternoon.
Newsroom knew this already because Te Anau Downs Station owner Peter Chartres sent us that exact quote a day earlier.
It took until August of this year – 23 years after the sheep-excluding agreement was signed – for a 14.5km fence to be completed. Lucas confirms taxpayers paid for all of it – a cost of $361,639.
And the cattle are still able to access the national park, for now. Te Anau Downs has until the end of March to remove them, Lucas says – again, something Chartres had already disclosed.
“The cattle are grazing on exotic grass which was established there when this area formed part of Te Anau Downs Station,” Chartres emailed on Thursday, adding “The area has been extensively grazed since 1859.”
That may be the case, but the national park plan says the department will take action to prevent “illegal grazing of stock and other domestic animals”. “Where Fiordland National Park adjoins freehold land, which is grazed, effective control of stock will be sought through discussions with landowners and appropriate fencing.”
The situation in the Eglinton raises several questions.
Can DoC seek side agreements that seemingly flout its own national park management plan? Can cattle graze without a licence, a potential breach of the department’s general policy for national parks?
Has DoC monitored the damage done by Te Anau Downs’ cattle on native species in the park? (DoC didn’t answer this question.) And isn’t paying for the fence setting a terrible precedent by paying for a fence to keep someone else’s stock from entering a national park?
It certainly seems to jar with a decision taken earlier this year by DoC director-general Lou Sanson to cancel a controversial grazing lease in South Westland, after the farming family that held the lease in the upper Haast River valley argued a requirement to fence their cattle out of the Mt Aspiring National Park was expensive and impractical.
“It’s a form of negligence,” says environmental activist Angus Robson, of Matamata, who has taken an interest in the activities of Te Anau Downs Station. He accuses DoC of folding to avoid a showdown.
“Chartres is renowned in that district for making life difficult for regulatory agencies – whether they be regional councils or district councils or DoC or anybody else – they just take the easy way out. And it’s not their money.”
Fiordland National Park is the country’s biggest, spanning more than 1.2 million hectares. It was formally constituted in 1952, and is part of Te Wāhipounamu – South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.
Not surprising really.
DoC is so incompetent. I find it bitterly ironical DOC is conducting a review of Fish and Game when DOC itself is in need of radical overhaul to get its priorities sensible and practical. In the top of the South Island over in the Wairau valley wilding pines are out of control. DoC has done nothing to stop it. Twenty year old mature Douglas firs grow besides 4WD tracks. In 20 years, DoC has stood lamely by. Young pines proliferate stream beds, just 40 metres off 4WD tracks. DoC should be there with chainsaws and tree poison injectors.
Their latest 1080 drop at Okarito (West Coast) has killed native gulls and no doubt other wildlife. In the Top of the South, DoC is topdressing the beautiful Tennyson Inlet of the Marlborough Sounds with 1080. Their 1080 programme is based on falsehoods and ignoring credible science. Landcare Research studies show 1080 induces a rat explosion
that results in numbers soaring to 3 to 4 times original rat population.
DoC is out of control and needs reining in.
New Zealand’s native birds and vegetation spent millions of years coexisting (evolving)
with large grazing and browsing Moa birds weighing up to 250 kg (500 lb). They did not extinct our unique plants, birds, mammals, lizards, frogs and insects. They were essential for their survival because they tracked our forests and swamps so that our flightless birds could get quickly from one place to another to feed and so their babies did not die of hypothermia in long grass and tangled vegetation. Large animals and birds are critical for the survival of natural ecosystems worldwide. Bison in North America, Elephants in Africa, Kangaroos in Australia, Moa in New Zealand.
Otago researcher Quinn Berentson published the book “Moa – The Life and Death of New Zealand’s Legendary Birds” in 2012. It has recently been reprinted. 300 pages. That means there is no excuse for DoC, Forest & Bird and their sympathisers to research the modern science. Cattle and other large animals should be encouraged to trample and graze our natural areas. They replace the ecological niche once occupied by our extinct Moa and are absolutely essential for the continued survival and health of our natural flora and fauna. I’ve co-authored a book explaining this. “New Zealand’s Changing Biodiversity – Nature Under Pressure by Jim Hilton and Roger Childs published in 2018 95 pages. It’s about time DoC policy makers stopped wasting tax dollars building fences, dropping poison, helicopter shooting our present day Moa and bullying farmers and others who are trying to make an honest dollar.
DOC is the public manager of the NZ Public estate responsible for the recreation on it and managing its ecosystem in a healthy sustainable state which is called conserving or conservation. Unfortunately the recreational responsibility is largely ignored unless there is an option for charging concessions. It also has a confused conservation approach , possibly largely influenced by extreme environmental organisations who have infiltrated its management all the way to the CEO and Ministers of the Environment over the years.
It time a completely independent review of the Department’s execution of the custodial and management responsibility be fully audited in line with its official mandate. It seems clear currently there is NO check on the Department of Conservation (and Recreation) performance is in line with its legal obligations.
Democracy is the basis of NZ law, however the Department of Conservation seems to run oblivious to this principle, and appears to be an autocratic agent of extreme environmental organisations.
DOC, is moving under Government orders to hand over the entire ownership of the public’s conservation estate, to Iwi.
The working paper is entitled—“the Options Development Group” .