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Protecting our precious places

Mahu Whenua covenants opening celebrated

Media release
Embargoed till 7 March 2015

Today in Arrowtown the Governor-General and QEII National Trust’s Patron, His Excellency, Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, formally opened the Mahu Whenua covenants, New Zealand’s largest ever private land protection agreement.

Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry ONZM spoke at the opening ceremony. Minister Barry acknowledged the strength of the partnerships that have enabled the protection of natural and cultural heritage values on such a grand scale.

The covenants were established by Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange of Soho Property Ltd in partnership with Queen Elizabeth II National Trust. They cover most of the country between Lake Wanaka and Arrowtown and are bordered by the Shotover River and the Cardrona Valley.

The proposal to establish the covenants was announced in August 2014. With formal registration of the covenants now complete, one each on Motatapu, Mount Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak stations, some 53,000 hectares of continuous high country landscape is now permanently protected.

A number of parties were consulted during the drafting of the covenant agreements. Their input and  support and the financial contribution from sponsors Steel and Tube and Central Lakes Trust has been of vital importance to the process, Trust Chair James Guild says.

Guild says the protection of such a large tract of private land would not have been made possible without the vision and generosity of Mr Lange.

‘Mr Lange has instigated the protection of an extensive landscape that is rich in natural and cultural heritage.  

‘He has in effect created New Zealand’s first private national park. We celebrate his tremendous philanthropy and the legacy he leaves on this landscape with his covenants.

‘This land’s scenic and intrinsic values and the opportunities for people to get out and enjoy it are safeguarded forever,’ he says.

The covenants protect diverse bird species, skinks and insect life and a range of vegetation communities and outstanding water values. The 1977 Kawarau Water Conservation Order specifically highlights the Shotover catchment’s wild and scenic features, natural character, scientific values, recreational values for rafting, kayaking and jet boating, and its rich historical fabric.

Highly intact heritage sites are also protected, dating back to around 1300 AD when Maori first travelled across the land, through to early structures left by surveyors in the 1850s, early pastoralist activities after that, and then gold mining activity dating from the 1860s. 

Permanent public access is also protected at a number of sites. The Department of Conservation’s Motatapu Tramping Track crosses some of the land. This track forms part of Te Araroa, New Zealand’s ‘Long Pathway’, which runs the length of the country. Four–wheel–drive trips, mountain biking, tramping, horse trekking and ski touring are other activities that can be enjoyed forever amid this iconic high country landscape.

Photo permission Motatapu Event - Photographer Paige DunnThe owner has been working with the New Zealand Walking Access Commission and the Commissioner for Crown Lands to formalise 17 new public trails to meet his Overseas Investment Act 2005 purchase conditions. Another four tracks over and above these requirements are being established by the owner. The tracks will provide for a range of recreation activities on Glencoe and Coronet Peak stations which are within easy access from Queenstown. They will also link up with sections of the Te Araroa trail that passes through Motatapu and Mount Soho stations. 

The National Trust will be the controlling authority for these trails. The Trust is only able to take on this responsibility with support from the Department of Conservation and Queenstown Lakes District Council to manage the trails.

Mr Guild emphasised that covenanting land is voluntary and not a requirement of the OIO or government. None of the four stations are involved in tenure review.

He says Mutt Lange’s actions demonstrate on a grand scale what many thousands of covenantors are doing around the country on their own land.

‘Together they are protecting our heritage across New Zealand’s modified landscapes where it is most at risk and least protected,’ he says.

The total area protected by covenantors across New Zealand is currently around 180,000ha—an area similar in size to Stewart Island/Rakiura (1,746 km2).


More information

View PDF(3MB) pamphlet of the values protected by the Mahu Whenua covenants.


On behalf of the National Trust

James Guild, QEII National Trust Chair, QEII National Trust 03 318 6873

Mike Jebson, QEII National Trust Chief Executive, QEII National Trust 04 474 1683, 021 499 759

On behalf of Soho Property Limited

Russell Hamilton, 027 434 4305, 03 409 8331

Willy Sussman, 09 916 8952, 021 300 600

Media liaison

Anne McLean, QEII National Trust communications advisor 04 474 1689, 022 678 3610

New Zealand Walking Access Commission

James Heffield - 027 703 5296 

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