Grazing on lake edge upsets tribe

An "unfortunate" grazing lease renewal on conservation land skirting Lake Ellesmere/Te Waihora should be reversed, Ngai Tahu says.

As reported in The Press on Saturday, a five-year extension to Greenpark farmer Barry Clark's cattle-grazing concession was approved at a meeting involving Canterbury-based ministers Kate Wilkinson and David Carter – overturning a decision by Department of Conservation (DOC) staff.

Ngai Tahu and the department have a joint management plan for Lake Ellesmere, but iwi were not consulted before the August meeting.

Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon said in a statement yesterday the tribe's governing body was "deeply disappointed" by the lease extension. It was inconsistent with many years of co-operative effort to restore the lake's health.

Ngai Tahu aimed to restore mahinga kai, conservation and recreation values to the lake, he said.

"In this context, we are of the view that this unfortunate decision should be reversed."

Official documents, released to The Press, reveal that Ngai Tahu contacted DOC in September to ask why it was not consulted.

DOC staff replied "no concession had been processed or issued" and Clark's application would be sent to the tribe for comment.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman last week said the Government "lied" to Ngai Tahu by suggesting the decision had not been made.

Solomon's statement did not mention the DOC reply.

However, he took a jab at Environment Minister Nick Smith, who last month approved a joint bid from Ngai Tahu and DOC for a new conservation order to improve Lake Ellesmere's water quality.

"It seems unbelievable that this decision would be made given recent acknowledgement by the Government that there is a strong case for additional protection of the lake," Solomon said.

The licence's extension was inappropriate given the aims of the Te Waihora Joint Management Plan developed by DOC and Ngai Tahu in 2005, he said.

Lake Ellesmere is one of the country's most polluted lakes and nutrient enrichment from agricultural development has been identified as a major problem.

Revelations about the August meeting have upset conservation organisation Forest & Bird and the Green Party.

The Canterbury Aoraki Conservation Board recommended DOC extend the lease for five years.

John Keoghan, the board member who suggested the "phasing-out" period, said he did not know about the ministers' decision. Keoghan, a former national science manager with Crown research institute AgResearch, said he was "quite relaxed" about a five-year extension.

The Press