More than 5800 hectares of pastoral lease land, described as an "important part of the Mackenzie Basin landscape", could be placed in private ownership.
Land Information New Zealand has released the preliminary tenure review proposal for Irishman Creek Station.
The proposal suggests about 5800 of Irishman Creek Station's 9800ha be placed into freehold, with the remaining land put into Crown ownership as part of the conservation estate.
A reported prepared by the Department of Conservation (DOC) says the station provides habitat for several rare birds and fish including the black stilt, NZ Falcon, Canterbury galaxid and long-finned eel.
"The station retains very high natural qualities ... it is an important part of the Mackenzie Basin landscape. Large parts of the lease contribute much to people's experience and memory of the Basin," the report says.
"The visual character of short tussock, combined with the extent and uniformity of its coverage, creates a landscape of huge scale and openness that is very rarely experienced anywhere else in the region."
The DOC report says the land proposed to be transferred to the Crown "provides opportunities for active and passive recreation and opportunities for the Te Araroa trail".
"The station contains chronically threatened flora and fauna ... The landscape within the visual corridors of State Highway 8 ... is generally recognised as an iconic high country landscape."
Irishman Creek farms more than 8000 merino and about 200 angus cattle.
It is also the birthplace of jet-boating, which was developed by one of the station's former owners, Bill Hamilton.
Pastoral lease-holder Justin Wills was unavailable for comment.
According to the proposal, much of the land placed under freehold would still be subject to Crown covenants to "maximise the regeneration and succession of indigenous plant communities", in particular the rare native tussocks.
However, Forest and Bird Canterbury field officer Jen Miller was concerned about the sheer scope of the land to be set aside under freehold.
"It seems to defy logic. This is one of the most important landscapes in the country, and a rare ecosystem. I can't understand the Crown's decision to offer this as a proposal. It seems to suggest a lack of a clear strategy," she said.
Miller said there were some good aspects about the proposal, particularly the fact some land set aside for conservation.
"However, you have some amazing sections just going into freehold, and little justification as to why," she said.
Submissions on the proposal close on June 30.
- The Timaru Herald