Stewardship land is land held for conservation purposes, that is not a marginal strip or watercourse, and does not hold any additional specific protection or preservation requirements.
A number of areas were allocated to DOC when it was formed in 1987 and are managed as stewardship land. They were former State forest and Crown land areas considered to be more appropriately managed for their conservation values by DOC. The intention was that DOC would act as a steward of these areas until their destiny was determined.
In addition to the above areas, there is other land that is held under the Conservation Act 1987 (eg land that has been acquired, transferred, exchanged or gifted) that is also managed as stewardship land.
Around 30% of conservation land is stewardship land, approximately 2,508,000 ha – 9% of New Zealand.
Report on stewardship land
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, released her report into the management and administration of stewardship land on 21 August 2013.
See Investigating the future of conservation: The case of stewardship land.
On 9 April 2015 the Commissioner released an update assessing the response to her recommendations.
See Update report: Investigating the future of conservation: The case of stewardship land.
Following on from this report the Minister of Conservation asked the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) for advice on the principles and processes that should be used in respect to land exchanges when making decisions on net conservation benefits. The NZCA provided this advice to the Minister and she has since asked DOC to refer to this advice in all land decisions.
See NZCA's advice on stewardship land and assessing net conservation benefit.
Update on DOC's work on stewardship land – November 2017
This is an update on DOC's work following the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's report into the management and administration of stewardship land.
Progress on the two special reclassification projects
The reclassification process of stewardship land in the St James-Poplars area in North Canterbury and the Mokihinui area of the Buller District are progressing. It is expected that this work will be completed by the end of this year.
Reclassification work for next five years
DOC is currently developing a five-year programme which will set out the first stage of reviewing identified sites of stewardship land to determine if reclassification is needed. This programme will focus on reclassifying stewardship land with significant conservation values.
To establish a process for considering areas holding high conservation values, DOC consulted with the Conservation Boards to nominate five areas from each region. Nominations have been received and DOC is now formulating the process to review stewardship land areas with a five-year work programme. The nominated areas will be assessed in further detail as this is developed.
Initially, the programme will focus on the next five years, it will also provide the approach for ongoing assessments of stewardship land to ensure all areas that should be considered for additional protection are identified. The process for reclassification allows for consultation and public notification prior to undertaking any actions.
DOC will continue to progress classification of areas of land purchased by the Nature Heritage Fund and is carrying out other statutory driven land transaction work associated with the various pieces of legislation it administers, including acquisitions, easements, covenants, reserve classifications and land exchanges.