< March 2022 newsletter

There is literally a huge amount at stake here!

full_Stewardship_vs_DoC_land_2013_v2.jpegThe Government is considering legislative changes in order to fast-track the review of 2.5 million hectares of Crown-owned land known as “stewardship land.” That is around nine per cent of New Zealand’s total land area! The proposed process is set to reduce public scrutiny, and favour those with vested interests. You have until Friday 18 March to have your say.

Made up of over 3,000 parcels, the stewardship land is part of the Department of Conservation (DoC) estate, but its conservation value is unknown. The Government has announced a package of measures to improve the process for the reclassification of this land. 

The legislative changes under consideration would allow Government appointed “national expert panels” to produce technical assessments, hold public consultations, and make recommendations to the Minister of Conservation. 

There are two possible outcomes for an area under consideration - reclassification under the Conservation, Reserve or National Parks Acts, or if the land is identified as having low or no conservation value, to be “disposed of”.

You can read the DoC 'Streamlining the stewardship land reclassification process' discussion document here.

As part of the legislative review, they are seeking feedback on options relating to:

  1. Improving consistency of public notification and submission processes.
  2. Enabling the national panels to carry out the public notification and submission process.
  3. Clarifying responsibilities for making recommendations to reclassify stewardship land as national park.
  4. Removing the statutory step to declare all stewardship land to be held for conservation purposes before it can be reclassified or disposed of.
  5. Enabling the Minister of Conservation to direct proceeds from the sale of stewardship land to DOC. 
  6. Clarifying the status of concessions on reclassified stewardship land.

First up is a two-year programme to reclassify 1 million hectares in the South Island.

But not without Ngāi Tahu at the top table!

Immediately after the national expert panels were established last May, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu (TRoNT) filed urgent legal proceedings claiming the Crown had started the review process without the involvement of Ngāi Tahu as its Treaty partner. TRoNT withdrew legal proceedings when the Government established a Ngāi Tahu panel to “work alongside” the national panels. 

While stating Ngāi Tahu environmental values must be protected and enhanced, Lisa Tumahai, chair of TRoNT, maintains the reclassification process will also determine whether some land can be made available for other purposes. Ngāi Tahu panellist Francois Tumahai is quoted in a Newsroom report: “The mana whenua panel works alongside the two national panels to share traditional mātauranga Māori of the whenua within the Ngāi Tahu takiwā, as well as information on mahinga kai, cultural interests, development opportunities, and our future aspirations to use the whenua.”

Now that Ngāi Tahu is in a position to directly influence the outcome of the reclassification process no doubt they will be casting covetous eyes over the land up for review. 

Ngāi Tahu has a Right of First Refusal to purchase all “surplus” Crown land in the majority of the South Island. Being closely involved in the reclassification process, as well as having priority over land classified for disposal, brings into play the likelihood of serious conflict of interest issues to arise. This illustrates a common problem with co-governance and similar arrangements. Unlike the country's formal rules-based system where there is a clear distinction between political and private economic spheres, iwi political and economic structures are interlinked.

 Why the rush?

The plan is to finish this huge undertaking within the next five years. The Government claims the national panels will not be making the final decision - that duty lies with the Minister of Conservation. However, with the sheer volume of recommendations passing across her desk, there will not be enough time for proper scrutiny by the Minister. This would likely be more of a rubber-stamping exercise than truly a decision-making one.   


As well as working alongside the Ngāi Tahu panel, the two national panels must consult with whānau, hapū and iwi as tangata whenua. It is only when this is complete that the public will be notified and public consultation will commence. While the discussion document does not impose conditions on tangata whenua consultation, public consultation is set to be cut from 40 to 20 working days minimum. In addition, it will be up to the panels whether the consultation will include  public hearings.

You can read the DoC discussion document ‘Stewardship Land in Aotearoa New Zealand’ November 2021 HERE.


It is important we protect our conservation estate for future generations. Don't miss this chance to let the Government know that we want do not want to see our conservation land privatised. Have your say - you have until 18 March 2022. 

Send your submission to [email protected] with the subject line: Streamlining the stewardship land reclassification process

Suggested points you could make in your submission:

  1. I suggest that the fast-tracked five-year time frame for classifying 3,000 parcels of stewardship land will not allow enough time for proper scrutiny - for detailed field assessments to be done, and due consideration to be undertaken. This could lead to poor decision-making.
  2. I urge the retaining of the statutory step declaring all stewardship land to be held for conservation purposes before it can be reclassified or disposed of.
  3. I request that the 3,000 parcels of land be gazetted, with an invitation to citizens to register for updates in relation to specific parcels or areas, thereby allowing for timely and informed public engagement. 
  4. I believe the proposed 20 working days for public consultation is grossly inadequate. I support a longer timeframe to allow for serious consideration by the public.
  5. I support removing the proposed option for the national panels to decline a hearing.
  6. I am concerned about serious conflict of interest issues which are likely to arise with Ngāi Tahu being party to the recommendations to the Minister regarding the reclassification and disposal of stewardship land, as well as a significant commercial entity looking for opportunities for economic development.

Include in your submission:

  • your name
  • the name of your organisation, if you are submitting on behalf of an organisation
  • your contact details – email preferred.

DoC have prepared a form with prompt questions to help you submit your response. Once completed, this can be sent to via email or printed and posted. See: Streamlining the stewardship land reclassification process



Democracy Action newsletter December 2021 THE DEPARTMENT OF CO-GOVERNANCE?


RNZ: Ngāi Tahu launches legal action over conservation land
Newsroom: Long overdue conservation land review raises anxiety
RNZ: The ban that wasn't - mining on conservation land

Go back to the March 2022 newsletter


No place for democracy in Ngāi Tahu grab for political power

Oral submissions on the bill to entrench Ngāi Tahu seats on Environment Canterbury were heard by the Māori Affairs Committee last week – and those who watched the proceedings report that there were considerably more presentations in opposition than those in support. Continue reading

Submission on the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill

  WRITTEN SUBMISSION Democracy Action does not support the Bill.  We do not support establishing iwi-based power by appointment in our governance arrangements. Therefore, we oppose the purpose of the Act, that is, to enable Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to appoint up to 2 members to the Canterbury Regional Council.  We urge the Government to reject the Bill in its entirety.  Continue reading

Iwi avarice trumps conservation values on West Coast

The West Coast Conservation Board is mired in what appears to be an intractable conflict of interest between conservationist and iwi commercial interests. Three members of the DOC West Coast Conservation Board (the Board) have recently resigned after being the subject of personal attacks, including being labelled racist for raising what they see as conflicts between the interests of conservation and the commercial interests of Ngāi Tahu.  Continue reading

Ngāi Tahu to Minister: No appointments without us

Ngāi Tahu is mounting a legal challenge to the (former) Minister of Conservation's appointment decisions for the West Coast Conservation Board. It appears the iwi has a beef with the Minister for having the impudence to reappoint a member of the board without engagement with tangata whenua and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu as treaty partner. Continue reading

No to designated seats for Ngāi Tahu representatives on CRC

Last month we celebrated as the Canterbury Regional Council Ngai Tahu Representation Bill was voted down in parliament. Following this welcome news, hopefully many have written to Simon Bridges, Winston Peters and David Seymour to show appreciation for their stand, and to congratulate Shane Jones and Nick Smith for their speeches against the bill, as reported on RadioNZ, available HERE. If you have not done so, it’s not too late, we are sure they’d love to hear from you. Continue reading

Good News - designated seats for Ngāi Tahu voted down

New Zealand First has scuppered Labour's bid to give Ngāi Tahu permanent seats on the Canterbury Regional Council, saying its special treatment for Māori. Shane Jones acknowledged the party's long-held position against separate seats for Māori on local body councils. Continue reading

Stewardship land reclassification on the West Coast

Following hard on the heels of calls for submissions on “Streamlining the stewardship land reclassification process”, which closed on March 18, DOC has announced the commencement of a 40 day consultation period allowing for public input into proposed reclassifications of 504 parcels of stewardship land on the West Coast of the South Island. The consultation period runs until 26 July 2022. Continue reading

Overhaul of conservation legislation underway

The government is undertaking a comprehensive reform of conservation legislation. Currently, it is consulting on a set of targeted amendments to legislation regarding conservation management planning, and the concessions system. Continue reading

The Department of Co-governance?

The key function of the Department of Conservation is to ensure that public conservation land is appropriately managed, protected and preserved for New Zealanders - now and in the future. However, there appears to be a shift in priorities at the Department to accommodate the Treaty “partnership” ideology. Continue reading

The undermining of our democracy continues apace

Please see below some examples from around the country: Earlier this year the Minister of Conservation signed a partnership agreement between the ministry, DOC and Auckland iwi Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, to share in the management of natural resources, and cultural and historical heritage. Ngai Tai ki Tamaki’s role is that of guardians and stewards. They are seeking to establish an ‘iwi conservancy’ over land and taonga species. They are based at Umupuia, just south of Maraetai, on the shores of the Hauraki Gulf. Yet they claim an area of interest, and therefore influence, that stretches from north of Auckland, down to Tauranga, including the whole of the Coromandel Peninsula; much of the Manukau Harbour in the west, and out past Gt. Barrier Island in the east, as shown below. Continue reading