Farmers and conservation groups will be able to have their say on proposed changes to the regulatory framework governing high-country pastoral leases after the Government announced an end to tenure review.
Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage brought forward her announcement that tenure reviews would be axed after the Newsroom website broke the news last week.
Tenure review is a voluntary process in which Crown pastoral land can be sold to a leaseholder and areas with high ecological and recreational value can be returned to Crown ownership as conservation land.
"Tenure review has seen some land protected but also large swathes, 353,000 ha, have been privatised and large areas intensively farmed or subdivided," Sage said.
"It's vital we ensure that our high-country pastoral leases are managed in the best interests of all New Zealanders, now and into the future.
"This Government will stop privatisation of iconic landscapes that belong to New Zealanders and secure them for future generations."
The remaining 171 Crown pastoral lease properties, covering 1.2 million ha, of Crown pastoral land, will continue to be managed under the regulatory system for Crown pastoral lands.
Sage would not say last week if the Crown would pull out of the 30 or so properties still going through the tenure review process, saying they would be reviewed on a "case-by-case basis".
But today, National's Land information spokesman David Bennett said that of the 34 leaseholders currently in tenure review, only eight would be allowed to proceed because they were far enough advanced to create a contractual obligation on the Crown.
"The other 26 will feel aggrieved at the Minister's unilateral actions in cancelling their applications when they had already started negotiating," Bennett said in a statement.
"The Minister for Land Information needs to explain why farmers who entered the review process in good faith won't have their work honoured, no matter how much they've spent so far on lawyers, surveyors and other experts," he said.
Tenure review has been heavily criticised as subjecting land - including native habitats - to intensive farming, and allowing people to buy Crown land then sell it at a profit.
In some cases, the Crown has paid farmers to get freehold title because greater value was placed on their interest in the land.
Land Information NZ recently released a critical internal report which said agencies were too focused on completing the process - "almost 'any deal is a good deal'" - and the system lacked transparency.
A discussion document released today outlines proposed changes to the regulatory framework, including:
• Making decision-making by the Commissioner of Crown Lands more accountable and transparent.
• Providing more guidance and standards for the Commissioner's decisions on leaseholder applications for activities such as burning and forestry.
• Requiring the Commissioner to obtain expert advice and consult as necessary when considering applications for discretionary consents.
• Updating the fees and charges framework.
• Requiring regular reporting against a monitoring framework.
Sage said there were no changes proposed to the system of setting rentals on pastoral leases.
After public consultation, the Government would amend the Land Act 1949 and the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998.
"The changes needed to implement a stronger stewardship regime for Crown pastoral land can only be achieved by changing the law, and in partnership with iwi, leaseholders who use the land, and the wider public," Sage said in a statement.
• Consultation is open until April 12, 2019.