Cow con­tro­versy

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

THE call is out for cows to be moved off of Mt St John to pre­vent more dam­age to the sig­nif­i­cant ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site.

Cat­tle have long been grazed on the moun­tain as a way of con­trol­ling veg­e­ta­tion and re­duc­ing the risk of fire.

Op­po­nents call the prac­tice ‘‘shame­ful mis­treat­ment’’ and are ask­ing the Auck­land Coun­cil to not re­new a lease which has been rolling over on a mon­thby-month ba­sis since 1992.

Ear­lier this year the coun­cil an­nounced plans to seek Unesco world her­itage sta­tus for the city’s vol­canic field.

Large dips that were once used for stor­ing ku­mara, ter­races dug into the crater, and man-made ridges are all re­minders that Mt St John was once a pa.

‘‘Over time, with rain and nat­u­ral pro­cesses, they will blur, fill in and wear away. But what we are do­ing by just al­low­ing large an­i­mals to wan­der wher­ever they want is ac­cel­er­at­ing that process,’’ Ngati Whatua Orakei Whai Maia Ltd her­itage and re­source man­age­ment unit se­nior man­ager Mal­colm Pater­son says.

‘‘It’s a deep irony that we’re do­ing that at the same time we’re say­ing th­ese are go­ing to be world her­itage sites. It makes a mock­ery of it.’’

There are other op­tions for veg­e­ta­tion con­trol and the moun­tain doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily need to look like a ‘‘bowl­ing green’’, he says.

Cat­tle were moved off Mt Eden in 2009.

‘‘Of­fi­cers ac­cept that they de­grade th­ese places, which was the ba­sis for tak­ing them off Maun­gawhau,’’ Al­bert-Eden Lo­cal Board chair­man Peter Haynes says.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately, four years af­ter that, it hasn’t been used as a tem­plate for other places.’’

He says the board and Maori have made their op­po­si­tion to cat­tle graz­ing well known over the years. But the board be­lieves the coun­cil is con­sid­er­ing re­new­ing the lease on a more per­ma­nent ba­sis.

Mt St John is one of 15 vol­canic cones in­cluded in a Treaty of Wai­tangi set­tle­ment with the Ta­maki Col­lec­tive and will be co­gov­erned by the Tupuna Maunga o Ta­maki Makau­rau Au­thor­ity con­sist­ing of Maori, coun­cil, and crown rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

A bill to al­low the han­dover had its first read­ing in Par­lia­ment at the be­gin­ning of the month.

‘‘The coun­cil’s tim­ing is just bizarre,’’ Mr Haynes says.

Any de­ci­sion to re­move cat­tle would need to be made in con­junc­tion with the yet to be formed maunga au­thor­ity, the coun­cil’s man­ager of re­gional and spe­cial­ist parks Mace Ward says.

Re­mov­ing the cat­tle is not an im­me­di­ate so­lu­tion, he says.

‘‘Prior to tak­ing any ac­tion on this, ei­ther to re­view the li­cence or re­move stock, the coun­cil must con­sider all of the op­tions avail­able, look at the costs and ben­e­fits, of each op­tion and con­sult with stake­hold­ers.’’

He says stock lev­els are ad­justed de­pend­ing on the ground con­di­tions and only young, lighter cows are used.

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