The Supreme Court, backing earlier decisions by the High Court and Court of Appeal, ruled last week that the QEII National Trust covenant over a 400ha block near Tairua, on the Coromandel Peninsula, was valid.

The QEII National Trust Acting CEO Paul Kirby, spoke to The Country's Jamie Mackay about the decision, saying it is a victory for conservation on private land in New Zealand and a blow for those who think that they can overturn QEII legal protection of the land.

"It's a great win for us, it's a great win for private land conservation and all those landowners who leave their land with us to protect forever."

There are 4400 QEII covenants around New Zealand, covering approximately 180,000 hectares. Kirby says the Supreme Court's decision is a victory for these landowners who are leaving a legacy.


"It's a pat on the back for all covenantors, I think the covenantors are the treasured part of our organisation."

Kirby says that while there was an error in the covenant on the title, all three Courts ruled against the subsequent owner of the land, who he says wanted to carve it up and develop and sell it for residential development.

"Unfortunately that was our mistake, but the Courts have said the intent of it was clear. It was there to be protected and it could be protected with the covenant, even with the mistake."

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Meanwhile Federated Farmers' president Katie Milne says farmers with QEII covenants will take heart from the Supreme Court decision.

"Rural and farming families comprise the majority of landowners behind the more than 4400 covenants in New Zealand and they make this commitment to protect bush, wetlands and other areas of special biodiversity on their properties so they can be enjoyed for all future generations," says Milne.

Milne says farmers were pivotal in the establishment of the QEII National Trust 40 years ago.

"Rural landowners have been the instigators of more than two-thirds of QEII covenants since 1977 and a study last year by Waikato University estimated the opportunity costs associated with covenanted land in New Zealand is in the range of $443m to $638m."

"So farmers have plenty of skin in the game with this form of biodiversity protection and we're delighted to see the Courts rule in favour of the original landowner's vision for protection in perpetuity vs a developer keen to turn a buck," says Milne.