Me and The Man attended a fascinating public talk last night, presented by Jesse Bythel from QEII National Trust.
(That we ended up attending at all was a coincidence - the babysitter who sometimes watches our children/house in the evening so me and The Man can have a date night, she couldn't come on her usual evening. We proposed, okay, how about Monday evening?
Monday evening suited her well. We scrolled through various calendars of the city to figure out where to go on a Monday, and this event was one of the very few, so we thought, okay, let's go check it out. AND I'M SO GLAD WE DID!
Because here's what QEII National Trust is - a concept I had never heard of before, though I did think there would be setups similar somewhere, just not sure how they'd work exactly.)
You have probably heard of National Parks that are reasonably common throughout the world. They are publicly owned, protected lands which (though managed and developed to an extent) remain very close to their natural state, therefore allowing parts of the world to have protection from damaging human interference.
Well, QEII National Trust in New Zealand does something similar, but it's on privately owned land.
About 40 years ago there was a farming couple on the North Island of New Zealand who witnessed rapid land development around them and wanted to to protect part of the land that belonged to them. But they didn't want to just protect it themselves - they wanted to set up a legal covenant which would protect that land for generations to come. They wanted to make sure that even if another person bought the land, the covenant would remain on the land record, unable to be removed, and therefore the next owner would also be prohibited from turning the land into farmland or a mine or whatever.
Kind of like a national park, but on private land.
And that's what, basically, QEII National Trust now does. It offers legal support, and part of the funding, to people who throughout New Zealand want to set up protected areas on their lands.
Owners do not give land away to QEII National Trust. Land remains private - able to be sold, and re-sold.
Neither do owners give away management of the land. They remain owners and managers of the land, and they deal with pest control, weed control, planting. They continue receiving support from QEII National Trust, and the trust visits their land every 2 years to check on it - but otherwise, it's still owners' responsibility to deal with the land.
The setup has been through the court on several occasions and remains a strong legal concept. There have been people who've bought land and have then attempted to remove the QEII National Trust covenants, but they haven't succeeded. Even, basically, if land "accidentally" caught fire and the native bush burned off, it still would be a protected area, unable to be developed.
The list of private lands protected in such a manner continues to grow. I think Jesse said it's approximately two new areas each week? Some are small, a couple of hectares each - a bunch of bush around a pond in the middle of a farmland, fenced off. Others are massive - I think Jesse said the biggest is 93 000 hectares, managed by an overseas owner who bought a large piece of land and turned 90% of it into protected bush.
It provides important migration corridors to protected species of wetland birds. There are rare orchids on some, rivers which remain blocked off from farmland on others and, as a result, remain clean.
Fascinating topic. Absolutely fascinating!
QEII National Trust.