You’ll remember the disgraceful Schmuck scandal when Minister John Carter had clauses inserted into legislation specifically to legalise Doug Schmuck’s annexation of a public reserve. John Key took no action. Now, Kate Wilkinson and David Carter got in on the act – forcing DoC to sign over more public land for private use.
From the Press:
Nutrient enrichment from agricultural development and the lack of riparian protection are major problems at Lake Ellesmere.
Greenpark dairy farmer Barry Clark was told by DOC in May that his grazing licence on conservation land near Lake Ellesmere, south of Christchurch, would not be renewed.
A recent water quality report identified it as the second-most polluted lake in the country. A report from DOC’s Mahaanui area office, written in November, says the area grazed by Clark’s cattle was of high ecological value.
The report said allowing Clark to continue grazing cattle “would be both inconsistent with our policy of lake margin protection and also unfair on those other concessionaires who we have modified or cancelled their licences to exclude cattle from lake margin lands”.
A Department of Conservation ecologist, who assessed the site in November, said Clark’s cattle were damaging the grazing site and having a detrimental effect on the lake’s ecosystem.
[Clark says] “It’s [the conservation land] part of the farm, to be quite honest with you,”
“It’s good farmland in my opinion, like the country needs – it would be a shame to see it go back to rack and ruin.”
So, this guy is being allowed to graze his cattle, for free, on our land and it is buggering up Lake Ellesmere. The arrogant bugger considers our land part of his farm and thinks that protecting the lake is letting the land ‘go to ruin’. Fair enough that his lease not be renewed, then. But this is where the Nats get involved.
Official documents released to The Press under the Official Information Act reveal Clark complained to National’s Selwyn MP Amy Adams, who raised the matter with Wilkinson.
Clark, whose family had grazed the land for more than a century, said he was advised early in 2010 by DOC that his lease would expire in June and he was asked to reapply – which gave him the impression that a “renewal was available”. DOC’s decision not to renew the licence was overturned at a meeting in August involving Canterbury-based ministers Wilkinson and Carter, Clark and Mahaanui area manager Bryan Jensen, and a five-year extension was approved.
What the hell are ministers doing at a meeting on what is surely an operational matter? Why do these ministers have the time to devote to one farmer’s lease but we can’t expect Paula Bennett to do anything when a mother of a horribly abused girl writes to her asking for help?
Extending the lease contravened DOC’s policy of removing grazing from the lake edge to protect the environment and upset some DOC staff.
It also contradicted what Clark was told by the department in 2004 – that the next five-year term of his lease would be his last.
Clark’s lease is the last for grazing cattle on conservation land around the lake’s edge.
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said it was shocking National Party ministers were leaning on DOC “to allow a farmer to pollute the lake even more than it is already polluted”.
Forest & Bird Canterbury/West Coast field officer Jen Miller said she was extremely concerned at high-level ministerial intervention.
“It is particularly concerning that the Minister of Conservation should choose to ignore the advice of her staff.”
Wilkinson said the ministers organised the meeting because of an apparent misunderstanding.
“An extra five years is not hugely significant in terms of the 100 or so years it has already been granted.”
The nice thing about that logic is it never wears out – every extra lease make the tradition stronger and the new lease relatively less significant. I’m not sure what the ‘misunderstanding’ was either.
Carter rejected any suggestion the ministers had bullied bureaucrats. He was surprised at the sudden change in tone from DOC and was concerned more land was falling into DOC’s hands.
“more land falling into DoC hands? The minister means ‘more ecologically sensitive public land being protected, preventing pollution of an important lake’, surely? And, just to add insult to injury, the government then lied to the local iwi:
Ngai Tahu and the Minister of Conservation have a joint management plan for Lake Ellesmere.
In September, more than a month after it was decided Clark’s lease would be extended, Ngai Tahu contacted DOC 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 Canterbury Conservation Board and Ngai Tahu for comment.
Norman said it was extraordinary that the Government “lied” to Ngai Tahu by suggesting the decision had not been made.
This stinks to high heaven. Will smile and wave act?
Oh and while he’s at it, could Key please investigate Carter’s decisions that have favoured meat processing companies that he has shares in?