Monday, December 03, 2018

What's special about Simons Pass?

Simons Pass is a hugely controversial dairy conversion on leased high country land in the Mackenzie Country. The leaseholders plan to stick 15,000 cows on some of the dryest land in the country, using irrigation to turn the tussock into grass. All of this requires the permission of the Commissioner of Crown Lands, but it was granted - against DoC advice, and against normal practice:

Greenpeace is questioning why a particular high country station in the Mackenzie Basin has had multiple discretionary consents granted to it by the Commissioner for Crown Lands against Department of Conservation advice.

A summary of discretionary consents presented to the Canterbury Aoraki Conservation Board (CACB) this week reveals DOC provided advice on 28 separate discretionary consent applications for Crown Pastoral Lease land in the Canterbury region between July 2016 and May 2018.

Of those, it appears all but eight followed DOC advice in some form. Five of those related to Simons Pass Station, a 9700-hectare high country station at the southern end of Lake Pukaki, which lodged seven of the 28 discretionary concessions.

The only times they followed DoC advice was when DoC approved the changes anyway. When DoC opposed changes (usually because they would have "profound and irreversible adverse effects"), they were ignored.

So, what's so special about Simons Pass? Why is DoC advice followed for other stations, but not this one? The Commissioner for Crown Lands owes us some answers.