New tussock conservation park opened today

  • Chris Carter

One of the most extensive intact tussock grasslands in New Zealand has become Otago's first conservation park, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

Called Te Papanui, the new park consists of over 20,000 hectares of tussock plains on the Lammermoor range in Central Otago. The park offers recreational opportunities such as walking, biking, four wheel driving, horse trekking and cross-country skiing.

"Te Papanui is a great example of how conservation can open up spectacular landscapes for public use and enjoyment," Mr Carter said.

"It is a marked departure from the traditional forest park. Instead of dense bush, it consists of stark, sprawling tussock plains, wide open sky and striking schist tors.

"New Zealand has some of the finest natural grasslands in the world, comparable to the pampas of Argentina and the steppes of Russia, but their protection has not been a national priority until now," Mr Carter said.

"The Government is working on a new network of eight or more parks in the South island high country, and grasslands will be protected as an essential characteristic of that landscape."

Te Papanui is the second grassland park to open after the Korowai/Torlesse Conservation Park in Canterbury. It has been constructed from crown-owned land, land derived from tenure review and purchases negotiated over several years with surrounding farmers.

"Te Papanui delivers on a key goal of the NZ Biodiversity Strategy - to protect the full range of our country's ecosystems and habitats. Over 500 native insect species live in the new park, many of which are found nowhere else in the world," Mr Carter said.

"Conservation areas all over the country are delivering economic benefits to local communities and Te Papanui is no different. Over 60% of Dunedin City's water supply is derived from the Lammermoor range. Te Papanui's tussocks collect and channel that water, "Mr Carter said.

"My thanks to the Dunedin City Council for having the foresight to recognise this fact and funding the removal of stock from the park to eliminate water pollution."