Mackenzie Basin: opportunities for agency alignment

Land use Environment Conservation Biodiversity conservation New Zealand

Significant changes in Mackenzie Basin land use have occurred over the last fifteen plus years. Many New Zealanders have a view of the Mackenzie Basin as a landscape of brown tussock grasslands and post glacial features with sweeping unobstructed views. The emerging reality may be a little different to this view.

The challenge to be addressed is how to reconcile outstanding national landscape and biodiversity values with the need for land owners and communities to maintain and develop their livelihood.

Over the past nine years a collaborative process involving those with interests in the Basin have arrived at an agreement about how to reconcile this challenge. This agreement, the Mackenzie Agreement, acknowledges the importance of a Basin land use pattern containing: a mix of irrigated and dry-land agriculture; tourism-related development; land actively managed for biodiversity and landscape purposes and; a prosperous community.

The Mackenzie Agreement aims to be implemented primarily through a community-based Mackenzie Country Trust and joint management agreements (JMAs). These JMAs were to provide funding to farmers to forgo intensification and protect landscape and ecological values. Although it is still relatively early days, the Trust is yet to meet the expectations surrounding its establishment.

Representatives from the five agencies with statutory responsibility for land and water management (Environment Canterbury (ECan), LINZ, DOC and the Mackenzie and Waitaki District Councils) acknowledged that, in terms of the social, economic, cultural and environmental issues in the Basin, they had tended to operate in silos. They also noted opportunity to better contribute to a preferred future for the Basin by applying higher levels of alignment.
There are two important statutory instruments through which higher levels of alignment are achievable. One is Crown pastoral lease administration, including tenure review processes (primarily available to LINZ, and DOC) and the other is the plan-making and consenting provisions of the Resource Management Act (primarily available to ECan) and the two District Councils in the Basin).

Tenure reviews in the southern part of the Basin are now largely completed. However, fifteen lease-hold properties remain either in, or able to become part of, the tenure review process in other parts of the Basin.

The recent promulgation of the Mackenzie District Plan and the Upper Waitaki amendments to Environment Canterbury’s Regional Plan provide a much clearer statement of community resource management expectations than was the case as little as recently as two years ago.

To improve agency alignment and better contribute to the achievement of a shared vision for the Basin, we recommend processes whereby the five agencies: share resources; convene joint meetings and hearings; develop and implement a clearer strategy for what the Crown is seeking to achieve throughout the Basin through tenure review; better integrate RMA Plan provisions, and; work harder to coordinate the use of a broader array of tools than in the past. We also recommend: shared access to spatial information; a phased approach toward better spatial planning; a reaffirmation of the Mackenzie Agreement, and; support for a rejuvenated and enhanced Mackenzie Country Trust.

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