A Hawke's Bay farmer has described Forest and Bird claims that the region's environment has "reached breaking point" because of tussock removal on his farm as "irrational".
However, Forest & Bird say it was not their intention to take issue with individual landowners, many of whom take good care of the "special places they are entrusted with".
About 40ha of indigenous forest and 170ha of tussock was converted to low producing grassland in Hawke's Bay between 2012 and 2018, according to Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research data.
Forest & Bird, which released a series of before and after satellite images of land along the Napier-Taihape Rd at Ngamatea on Monday, said 12 of 13 native habitat types have seen an overall decrease across the country.
Ngamatea Farming Company managing director Nathan Apatu says in a letter to the editor in today's Hawke's Bay Today that the land in question has been a highly modified grass and tussock paddock that has been grazed as part of Ngamatea Station for nearly a century.
"It went through a winter crop to new grass program between 2015 and 2017, during which time a satellite photo was obviously taken," he said.
"It is not part of any Significant Natural Area (SNA), nor would it fall within the definition of one, either under existing regional council policy or the proposed National Policy statement on Biodiversity."
Apatu added: "For Forest & Bird to summarise a satellite photo by linking it to a loss of habitat and decline in native species is lazy, and draws an extremely long bow".
Hawke's Bay contributed to an overall national loss of 1471ha of tussock and 2304ha of indigenous forest over the six-year period, according to Forest & Bird.
A Forest & Bird spokeswoman said it was not its intent to take issue with individual landowners.
"Many farmers do take good care of the special places they are entrusted with, but it is also quite clear there are many landowners who don't," she said.
"The LCR data on which we based our statement is unequivocal – New Zealand is losing is precious native habitat, year on year. This is not a Forest & Bird claim, but scientific fact."
The spokeswoman added: "Much of the habitat cleared in the period covered may not meet the definition of a Significant Natural Area, but many areas would have."
Hawke's Bay Regional Council acting catchment services manager Mark Mitchell said regulation for vegetation habitat clearance mostly rested with city and district councils through district plans and resource consents.
However it had has several programmes in the region "focused on protecting and enhancing biodiversity", he said.
"We have many more farmers taking measures to protect and enhance native bush on their land than clearing it."