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Valentine Not A Happy Camper!

Regular readers will know that I have frequently commented in the past on the unfolding disaster that comprises the evolving High Country Tenure Review, particularly as it affects the Upper Waitaki and McKenzie Basin and one particular egregious example - Simons Pass Station, and its owner - wealthy Dunedin businessman - Murray Valentine.

Valentine has alone been able to defy DoC's desire to have botanical expert Mike Harding undertake an environmental assessment  survey designed to inform  the Land Information NZ draft substantive proposal to Minister Eugenie Sage by refusing access to Harding with whom he has ;istory' - Harding previously undertook work for the McKenzie Council that Valentine considered inimical to his interests . 

A more amenable reviewer, acceptable to Valentine, in the form of Kate Wardle was appointed by DoC, and the opposing parties including Greenpeace and the Environmental Defence Society are understandably concerned at the precedent setting action by DoC in going along with Valentine in the matter.  The story in explored in a Newsroon story by David Williams today. 

"Why does this matter? Critics say a public agency undertaking work in a high-profile and controversial public process shouldn’t be dictated to by a lessee about the expert it wants to use. For their part, DoC and LINZ say they’re not worried about a precedent being set.

Valentine doesn’t know what the fuss is about, and is adamant there’s no story.

But the up-to-date ecological assessment, to review a property’s significant values and advise the best way to protect them, may affect the outcome of Simons Pass’s tenure review. (The soon-to-be-ended process is a lease-ending decision which privatises some areas, with the balance added to the conservation estate. Payments are made to settle property rights.)

It’s fair to say Valentine has a vested interest in the outcome of tenure review. Simons Pass, which is a mix of private and Crown-leased land, is undergoing a $100-million-plus dairy conversion. If plans come to fruition, it will see 4500 hectares irrigated and up to 15,000 stock animals there, including 5500 cows."

Valentine's proposal is for industrial scale indoor dairying, supported by mega-irrigation for feed production on what to all intents and purposes is an extremely sensitive landscape. It is considered by many to be ultimate insult to the McKenzie - I hasten to declare an interest, albeit minor, inasmuch as it was my favourite stamping-ground during my adolescence in Oamaru.

Greenpeace's Gen Toop says:

“It’s a very dangerous precedent to set, to let people who clearly have a vested interest in destroying the environment – like Murray Valentine who wants to put a mega dairy farm on a fragile piece of land – to rule over a process which is designed to make sure that, before we sell off a piece of public land, we know exactly what species are there, and, therefore, what parts of it might need to be kept and protected in public ownership.”

On the other hand, Environmental Defence Society executive director Gary Taylor doesn’t believe there’s a conflict. He says it’s more likely that Valentine “doesn’t like the rigour of Mike Harding’s analysis”. This tends to reflect Taylor's more laissez faire attitude throughout - one for which he has come in for considerable criticism from those who take the events surrounding Valentine far more critically.

The remarkable mea culpa by LINZ yesterday when it suddenly changed its tone - releasing a report stating  "its system of management is opaque and unfair, and weighted towards farmers" This is a turnabout that may be reflected in the forthcoming announcement by Eugenie Sage on the future of tenure review, and in particular the conditions surrounding Murray Valentines ability to fulfil his ambitions.




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