Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam)
: I move,
That the Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill be now read a first time. It is my intention to nominate the Local Government and Environment Committee to consider the bill over the next number of months. I need to declare straight away that this piece of remnant bush and the very large house that was once the family home of the first settlers on the Plains, the Deans family, is in my electorate. Between 1989 and 1996 I was a member of the trust board that administers that particular property, and between 1992 and 1996 I was chairman of that trust.
This is a piece of legislation that dates back to 1914 when the Deans family decided that the last remaining remnant of native bush on the Canterbury Plains at Riccarton should be in public ownership, and so they gifted it to the people of Christchurch at that time. There was a trust arrangement set up to administer all of the necessary caretaking of that bush, which involved quite a large number of local authorities that existed in and around Christchurch at that time. Later, in 1947, the family decided that they would exit the large house on the property, which had been built progressively from 1856 through to the early 1900s, and they sold the balance of the property to the Christchurch City Council, the Heathcote County Council, the Waimairi County Council, and the Paparua County Council, as well as the Borough of Riccarton, which at that stage had become the trustees, if you like, of the property.
I think it is fair to say that over the years the value of the bush was not as well recognised as it possibly could be. At one point it was the policy of the caretaker to, in fact, mow all of the undergrowth from one side of the bush to the other, so that you could look beyond the tree stumps from one side of the 15 acres to the other. That is clearly not the sort of way in which the bush should be looked after. In recent years, particularly with the Royal Society putting on to the trust board—and I say “recent years”; that is, the last 30 to 35 years—Dr Brian Molloy, the stewardship of the bush has changed considerably. It is now in a much more natural state, and far more natural than it has been probably since the latter part of the 1800s. In recent years a predator fence has been put round the outside of that, and that has facilitated a number of native species being able to regenerate themselves inside that particular part of Christchurch. It is one of the hidden gems of the city, and it is very, very valuable, not for its particular monetary value but for its intrinsic value as being such an important remnant of what once covered a greater part of the Canterbury Plains.
The house itself is interesting. It has been renovated to about the 1900 style. But if you go back to 1990, the city council at that stage was considering what its future might be. I think Denis O’Rourke, the New Zealand First member, was probably on the council at that time. There was a decision made that it should be subject to a management plan and that restoration should be carried out on the house. One of the
quirks of the 1947 Act was that there was the ability for the participants or the trust itself to levy the contributing counties a percentage of the rate base to fund their activities. By the time we got to 1990, immediately after the amalgamation, with just the one local authority, now the contributor, the potential for payment through the formula was quite considerable.
The council at that stage struck what I think was a very sensible arrangement in continuing to fund its operations, with a view to that funding renovating the property. A new roof was put on with Canadian shingles, which was most of the original type of roof. A full sprinkler system was put inside. There was earthquake strengthening put into all of the chimneys, and all of the fireplaces were kept operational, although only two of them are actually used these days, under current air consent policy. But the point is that having done all that work, this house, although it has suffered some damage, has come through the recent earthquakes extremely well.
What we see today is the trust board, in conjunction with the Christchurch City Council, working out what we need as a piece of legislation to guide us through the next long period of the history of the property. It does recognise, I think, the value that Christchurch can see in that property. I am very proud to say it is a heritage building, and it will continue to be a very important part of the fabric. But it is the bush that is the true gem, if you like, that the bill is setting out to protect.
I am very delighted to move this bill to its first reading today. I am sure that some of the history that goes around this particular part of Christchurch will interest the select committee as it goes about its work. It is appropriate that the bill does go to the Local Government and Environment Committee because the local government side of this is very, very evident in a positive way, and then the environmental protection that is afforded to the bush will be of interest to those on the committee who take that particular interest on board. I look forward to the select committee going about its deliberations in a timely manner, and the bill’s return to the House and ultimate passage.
Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram)
: I am happy to take a call on the Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill. I want to acknowledge the local member Gerry Brownlee for bringing this to the House. I also want to acknowledge the Riccarton Bush trustees for their work, who along with the Christchurch City Council legal services unit did much work in preparing the bill that we are examining now. As the member opposite has indicated, Riccarton Bush is in the Ilam electorate; it is not in the Wigram electorate. But it is only a few metres over the boundary. I observe that I can see it from my window.
This bill tidies up the 1947 Riccarton Bush Act and the governance arrangements that were put in place for the board for the Riccarton Bush trustees. It better defines their functions to provide for the continuation of the very good work they have been doing, and it enhances what they can do in preserving this. Labour will support this bill to go to the Local Government and Environment Committee. We believe this is based on good consultation. The board has been very involved in putting together this piece of work, local people have been consulted, and a number of Christchurch people have had their input.
We think it is really important that as Cantabrians confront their future, we preserve our past. Riccarton Bush and the land and buildings that are there are an important part of that past. We think that our heritage and preserving our heritage in our city is important and we would like to see some of those heritage buildings left standing. I will just indulge the historian in me for a few moments and get on the record some of the important history of this site. Riccarton Bush is an incredibly important part of our natural history. It is part of a protected remnant of bush that we once saw all over the
Canterbury Plains. The species and the plants that we see growing there were once what much of the plains looked like. It is now, as the member bringing this bill to the House has noted, protected with a predator fence, and we are seeing some important work in terms of biodiversity in the Canterbury area taking place in this area.
This was a site that was also important to Ngāi Tahu. This was an important mahinga kai site, and it was also an important timber site for the iwi. It was from the bush that much of the carving and waka were produced, and it was also an important place for gathering pigeons and an important food source site.
I also note that Riccarton Bush was perhaps one of the first rewrapped and given back Christmas presents in Canterbury. The Deans actually signed their deal to buy the land with the agents of the Canterbury Association on Christmas Day in 1848. They promptly gave half the bush over to the emerging settlement to be used as a source of timber in building the city. This is something that I think resonates with many of us in Christchurch at the moment, thinking about building and rebuilding as we go about recreating a city. We had some settlers who had the foresight to think that their civic mind actually was to contribute to the city that was growing up around them.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: We’re not going to cut down the other half.
Dr MEGAN WOODS: Well, actually, I do note that by 1851 all of that timber had gone; the settlers had used all of it. The Deans, on the other hand, were exemplars of what we need to do in terms of preserving this bush. Theirs has actually survived. They used only timber that fell down, and they adopted what was very much a conservation model in terms of their own stand of trees that they were looking after. Much of the timber was used to build Homebush. That is just some of the history of the site.
The board, when it was looking at the legislation that was needed to enhance the governance of this area of land, identified a number of areas that needed tidying up. It said that the new legislation would make amendments to the Act, rather than repeal the Act that was in place. It elected to pass this amending piece of legislation because it wanted the original Act to actually stand as a historical document itself. But it said that the amendments needed to reflect the shape of local government as it is now and the financial planning that happens in local government as it is now. It needed to update the statutory functions of the board and it wanted to require the board to adopt a management plan much like a management plan that would happen under the Reserves Act, because, of course, this is governed by its own Act of Parliament. But one of the significant drivers for the board in seeking these amendments was the low level of statutory levy that was payable by the local councils. What was happening in reality was that much of their funding was actually topped up by additional grants.
Labour welcomes this tidying-up, particularly around this funding, and we welcome this particularly in light of the local government reforms that are currently going through this House. Who knows whether Riccarton Bush would be a core service under the local government reforms? This Act gives this incredibly important historical site within our city protections and gives its funding some certainty and some protections. There is a bit of a yes/no/maybe game going on with what will be regarded as a core service. V8 Supercars races? No. Garden shows? Yes. Who knows when it comes to Riccarton Bush? The kiwis in the bush—who knows whether they would be seen as a core service?
We are very happy to see this go to a select committee, as I noted at the beginning of my speech. We think that it has had good local public consultation, but we think the opportunity for more public input would be good. We welcome many of the provisions that are in the bill. I want to point especially to the statutory protection that expressly preserves the right of free public entry to Riccarton Bush and the lands vested in the
board. I would like to congratulate the people who have put together this bill on having that provision in there. That is something to be acknowledged and to be congratulated.
I also note that the bill authorises the board to own and to acquire other lands for purchase or that are gifted to it. At the select committee consideration what I would like to see considered, and what we would like to see considered, is whether there could be protections against the sale of this asset. I do note that this bill was put together 4 or 5 years ago, at a time when the people putting it together would not have imagined the pressure that would be brought to bear on Christchurch City to sell off its assets. I do note that it is the very member who has brought this bill to the House who is putting that pressure on Christchurch City to sell its assets. So we would like to use the opportunity of a select committee to see whether there is a good opportunity to protect this most valuable asset for the people of Christchurch for ever. I did note with some relief that the member did note that there was not much monetary value in Riccarton Bush, so it has obviously gone through his thinking process. But we would like to see this preserved for ever for the people of Christchurch, and not put at risk. That is something a select committee could examine to strengthen an already very strong bill that is going to do much to make sure that Riccarton Bush is at the heart of a recreated Christchurch, and is there for generations more Christchurch people to enjoy. Thank you.
NICKY WAGNER (National—Christchurch Central)
: I rise to support the Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill. I have been visiting Deans Bush in Riccarton all my life. I know that it is officially called Riccarton Bush, but locally, and perhaps fondly, it is known as Deans Bush, as a mark of respect to the Deans family, because, of course, it was the Deans family who donated that property to the people of Christchurch in 1914. Indeed, it was a most generous and appreciated gift.
Deans Bush is a wonderful stand of kahikatea. It is mixed with tōtara and mataī, and it really is an oasis of green very close to our city. It is the last of that kind of bush on the plains. I think those trees are possibly about 600 years old. On the fringe of that bush is the original Deans cottage, which was made out of wood cut out of the bush. It was built in 1843 and it is the oldest building standing on the Canterbury Plains. I am very pleased to be able to report that it is undamaged by the recent earthquakes.
The brothers John and William Deans came from Kirkstyle, Riccarton in Scotland, and they arrived in New Zealand in the early 1840s. After negotiating with local Māori, they settled at Riccarton. They became very successful farmers and traders, and over the years they built a very beautiful and very large Victorian-Edwardian home. I say Victorian-Edwardian because it was built over 30 or 40 years. And it still stands there. It stands there very proudly, but, unfortunately, is closed because of damage with the earthquakes. That home is known as Riccarton House, and the grounds were purchased by local councils in 1947. The legislation was changed at that time to include it with the bush.
Of course, the Deans were Scottish and good Presbyterians. In recent years, Riccarton Bush has become the spiritual home of the Scottish community in the city. There is now a monument to the Deans family there, and to the ordinary early Scots settlers, and regular Scottish events are held in the grounds. I am sure the Deans would enjoy those pipe band competitions, the Scottish dancing, the clan parades, the haggis eating, and particularly the whisky drinking.
The Deans were well established at Riccarton before the first four ships carrying settlers for the Canterbury Association arrived in our city. They came with a vision for the Canterbury Association to transplant a perfect Anglican society to New Zealand. Local folklore tells us that the location of Hagley Park between the main settlements for the Anglicans and those Presbyterian Deans was perhaps deliberate. It kept them well
on the other side of the city, at arms length from the new settlement. I am not sure whether that is true, but the fact that the city fathers later allocated land for the Catholic community at the other end of town, near the gasworks, would tend to let us believe that it might be true.
This bill today is a further amendment of the original Act, and is necessary to update and modernise the governance structures to better define the role of the board, and to vest the land at 30 Kahu Road to the board. Deans Bush at Riccarton is now an especially lively place since the earthquakes, because although the old Deans homestead, as I said, is still closed with damage, it has become even more of a community centre, and every weekend farmers’ markets are held in the grounds. Apparently, John Deans was an early conservationist, because on his deathbed he asked his wife Jane to be sure that Riccarton Bush remained for ever. So this bill, which once again amends that original Act, brought to the House by the local member of Parliament, Gerry Brownlee—thank you, Gerry—will keep Riccarton Bush safe for many years to come. So I commend this bill to the House.
Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills)
: Like other members, I am delighted to be able to take a call on the Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill. I want to begin by congratulating and commending the local member, the Hon Gerry Brownlee, MP for Ilam, for what is probably a lot of work, actually, that has gone on behind the scenes in introducing this bill. Even though it is quite a small bill, it has three parts, and I know there would have been a lot of consultation and engagement with local organisations to get it to this stage.
Like my colleague Megan Woods, member of Parliament for Wigram, I want to acknowledge the trustees and also the legal services team at the Christchurch City Council for the work they have put in. I am delighted that the member in charge of the bill has advised the House that he is proposing to refer it to the Local Government and Environment Committee. I was particularly touched by the way the member explained the links between local government and environment in the same way that he passionately described the need for protection of the bush and heritage buildings, and I would like him to repeat it—a lot. We like to hear it in Christchurch from the member in his other capacity as the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, because those are the two things that we are in danger of losing quite a lot of. The member’s obvious personal inclination came to the fore, and I personally want to hear more of it.
I would recommend that the Local Government and Environment Committee come to Christchurch. It is quite common during a local bill to come to a city. Some people, so I have heard, think there is not much to come to our city for, but I can advise them that that is not the case. I know that the local member—the member who just resumed her seat, Nicky Wagner—Megan Woods and I, and our other Canterbury colleagues, would be delighted to look after them and ensure they see a lot of our city. But it is seriously important that they go and see the actual area that is being discussed in this legislation.
We heard some excellent history from Megan Woods, and I want to thank her for bringing that information to the House. I know that during the consultation process the local member would have had a lot of engagement and discussion with the Deans family, who, of course, are very strong still in the affairs of our city and our region. I would be very curious to know—and perhaps the member could tell us in his concluding comments—whether they mentioned their continued frustration with the compulsory acquisition of private land that has been enabled because the Government has not taken any action to fix the part of the Resource Management Act that allows that. Also, because of the Central Plains Water Trust activity, part of their farm, which goes back as long as this very area, is now going to be compulsorily acquired. You
know, it is hard to imagine in this day and age—[Interruption]—and we need smelling salts for Mr O’Rourke momentarily while we discuss this.
That farmland has been in the Deans family as long as this land has been in the Deans family, then later put in a trust, and now it will have a compulsory acquisition stamp on it, which the Minister could do something about. I would encourage him to do that—in fact, I would like to advise him that I have a member’s bill in my name, which for the second time will be presented to this House. Last time he clearly was not aware of the repercussions of the compulsory acquisition of private land, because he voted against it. I am sure that will be raised in future discussion with the Deans family.
I want to conclude as I started by acknowledging the work that the member has put into this bill, alongside the legal team at the city council and the trustees themselves. I listened to the member’s contribution as he began the first reading debate on the bill. He mentioned the chimneys, and it gave me a bit of inspiration to suggest one small thing that the member might like to do to fill a vacuum of time that will clearly now be in his life—because he has finished the work on this bill to this stage—and that is to use his powers under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority legislation to grant all Cantabrians existing use rights so that we can have our log burners back in our rebuilt homes. The granting of existing use rights is a power that he does have under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority legislation. That is the only change that is required. While we support the transition of the chimneys being lit through this Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill, so too could the member support constituents, all our constituents across our city, being able to light their log burners as they were able to prior to the February quake. It is a pleasure to support this legislation.
EUGENIE SAGE (Green)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Like others in the House, I am pleased to take a short call on the Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill, which amends the Riccarton Bush Act 1914 and the Riccarton Bush Amendment Act 1947. The Green Party will be supporting this bill going to the Local Government and Environment Committee.
I acknowledge the member for Ilam, the Hon Gerry Brownlee, and his recounting of a little of the history of the bill and the work of the board. The last major overhaul of the board’s functions and powers was in 1947. This bill will both modernise and update the governance arrangements for the board that manages Riccarton Bush, Riccarton House, Deans Cottage, and the very attractive grounds that surround those buildings.
Riccarton Bush is just along the road from the Green Party offices. It is an area that I used to bike through on the way to the university, and it has very high heritage and amenity value for Christchurch and for Canterbury. That, as other members have said, is because it is the last remnant of flood plain kahikatea forest on the plains. Deans Cottage is the oldest building on the plains, and both it and the Victorian homestead of Riccarton House are category I listed historic buildings.
The board’s careful stewardship of these assets has been recognised in several awards, including one from the city of Christchurch, the environmental award, in 1999, and another one in 2000, and Environment Canterbury’s resource management award in 2004. Certainly, like the Minister, I acknowledge the work of botanist Brian Molloy in terms of his expertise in guiding the management of Riccarton Bush. The bill, by better defining the board’s functions and improving its financial reporting and administration, will update these areas. It makes sense to have a financial plan. It makes sense to have a management plan for the bush because of the nature and importance of the assets that the board is charged with managing.
Certainly, Riccarton Bush has benefited from much greater attention to the ecology of the bush. There was a very generous grant by Grant and Marilyn Nelson’s Gama Foundation, which funded the erection of the predator fence. That has meant that
Canterbury gecko have been reintroduced, and tree wētā, and that the bush has been part of the Department of Conservation’s Operation Nest Egg, where kiwi eggs are taken from the wild and hatched at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, and then the kiwis are reared to a stage where they can confront predators like stoats, before being released back into the wild.
But there is a problem with Riccarton Bush in relation to the earthquake, which the MP for Ilam may not be aware of. Because of the collapse of the cliffs at Sumner, where a lot of feral pigeons used to roost, a lot of pigeons are now roosting in the kahikatea trees of the bush. Their droppings are fouling the forest floor. These are feral pigeons; they are not the native kererū. They are quite a management problem for Riccarton Bush. The board, with its very modest budget of about $400,000 annually and the grants it gets from the Christchurch City Council, does not have the funds to control the feral pigeons. They are an ecological pest. The predator fence, obviously, does not keep them out. So the problem may be within the member’s responsibility for earthquake recovery. This avian problem in the bush is something that perhaps the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority could do something about.
I understand that the board did not want to repeal the original 1914 or 1947 legislation, because of the extensive history that they provide, but to me it makes more sense if the legislation is consolidated in one statute. I would be interested to see if there were submissions on that. Like the member for Wigram, I am pleased that the bill safeguards public access to Riccarton Bush and the grounds, though it does allow the board to charge for services such as the ranger-guided tours, and it does also allow for a licence for the café, which we hope will reopen when Riccarton House is reopened once the damage there has been repaired. The Green Party supports the bill and looks forward to public submissions on it. Thank you.
DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First)
: Deans Bush, with its remnant of kahikatea forest, and the Deans homestead since 1843, is an area of extraordinary beauty on the banks of the Avon River in Christchurch. It is a very important Christchurch City asset, one of many such assets in Christchurch that should never be sold—one of many assets in Christchurch that should never be sold. I would like to compare that statement with a speech made just a few minutes ago in this House by Nick Smith, who celebrated the fact that councils were able to sell land, including reserve land, and do what they like with it. That is not the situation as it should be, especially with properties like this.
This property has been well cared for, but only since about 1990, using ratepayers’ money, and that needs to continue. I joined the Christchurch City Council and was on it for 15 years, between 1989 and 2004. It was for the first time then that we committed the funding necessary for the preservation of this house. I remember going there and inspecting it along with other councillors, looking at the roof and the state of that, looking at rooms that were completely unusable, and looking at a lot of other very unkempt aspects of that particular property, including the bush itself. We committed voluntarily the funding necessary to make sure that that all changed, and what we see now is a property that we can all be proud of, despite the current earthquake damage. We did it because we knew it was needed and we knew it was valued by the people of Christchurch, who could visit it free of charge then as well.
For the same reasons, this Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill should now be supported because it brings the Riccarton Bush Act up to date. New Zealand First does have one serious reservation, which I will mention later. However, new sections 5 and 5A, in clause 14, do provide for a board of eight people, five of whom are appointed by the Christchurch City Council and two of whom must be community board members.
I would like to take this opportunity to remember the late Ishwar Ganda, who was a councillor for the Wigram ward—actually, it was called the Wigram-Riccarton
community at that time. He was a staunch supporter of the Riccarton Bush and Riccarton House, and he was a long-time member of the Riccarton Bush Trust board. I would also like to acknowledge David Close, who was the councillor who actually did insist on the fitting of sprinklers to the property as he did to many heritage and other properties owned by the council at that time. The Deans family, of course, can appoint two board members as well, and always have, and the Royal Society one member, too. That is an appropriate mix of members for the board. The council supplies the money; therefore it is appropriate it should appoint five out of the eight board members.
New sections 4 and 4A, in clause 4, concerning the terms of office of board members, and new sections 10A, 10B, and 10C, in clause 5, relating to functions and powers of the board, are also appropriate and do modernise the provisions for the board and bring its functions up to date.
New section 14, in clause 7, confirms public access without the restrictions that were in the old Act, the Riccarton Bush Act 1914, and makes sure that no fee would be payable for public access, and that is very important. However, the reservations that New Zealand First has do relate to some of the aspects of the financial plan. Section 21 of the principal Act assumed a grant, and it was always made available, but the new sections give the board a bit of a blank cheque. The city council, in new section 23(3), in clause 10, can only approve, and not disapprove, of the financial plan, which I think is something of a defect. Although it is true that with five out of eight board members there is not much of a risk that there would be an inappropriate financial plan, it is actually not good law to make it possible for the council to only approve the financial plan and not for it to be able to disapprove it. The legislation should at least say that if there is an issue then the board and the council should be able to sit down and agree upon it, provided always, of course, that there is sufficient funding for the management and the operational capital plans. Subject to that reservation New Zealand First will be happy to support this bill going forward.
JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki)
: It is with pleasure that I speak to the Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill. I say to the House that I always thought Riccarton Bush was known as Deans Bush, so there is one thing that I learnt today. This is a good bill because it does what a number of other good local bills that have been brought to previous Parliaments have done. Indeed, we have had a look at two local bills previously this evening. What the bill does is modernise arrangements for the governing body of, in this case, Riccarton Bush.
The history has been fascinating. I say as a South Islander of a more southern persuasion who is always travelling to Christchurch that just off Riccarton Road there is the magic of what I thought was Deans Bush. It is something to look forward to, as I do tend to go down that road, past the Green Party offices too, quite frequently because Christchurch Boys’ High School is fairly close by as well—if my geography is correct. It is a lovely part of Christchurch. You can tell when you go to Christchurch that Christchurch folk are understandably proud of Riccarton Bush, proud of the legacy of the Deans family, and also very proud indeed of the kiwi breeding programme, of which I am also aware, and of the kahikatea forest remnants.
Looking though this bill, the objectives of the bill are pretty straightforward. It is to modernise the governing arrangements. The speaker previous to my contribution, Denis O’Rourke, outlined some of the clauses, which I have also noted, that tidy up and modernise the governance for this organisation and provide for terms of office of members of the board, detailing functions of the board, allowing for the establishment of committees—that is a more modern way of delegating functions amongst board members—and empowering the board to delegate some of its functions and powers. It
is pretty straightforward. I do not have the misgivings shared in the previous member’s speech.
I note in clause 10 new sections requiring the board to adopt a financial plan to be integrated with the planning processes of the Christchurch City Council. The next part of that clause provides for the application of the Local Government Act 2002. Clearly, the Local Government and Environment Committee has got some work to do on this bill, but none the less it is, yet again, another good local bill. I commend the local member, Gerry Brownlee, for bringing it to the House. Local bills do not just appear on the Order Paper; there is a lot of work and a lot of consultation going on before that happens. I look forward to scrutinising the bill through the course of its passage through the select committee and then back in the House.
RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou e te Whare. I am pleased to speak in support of the Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill. Along with my other colleagues, I support its first reading and its referral to the Local Government and Environment Committee.
This bill, in terms of modernising the governance arrangements with the Riccarton Bush trustees, really concerns the beautiful piece of historic bush that makes up the property in question. We have heard a lot this evening about the wonderful history that Canterbury and Christchurch people and the Scottish community have with the bush area. It also goes further back, as my colleague Megan Woods touched on. It goes right back to Ngāi Tūahuriri, when the bush in its Ngāi Tahu name was called Putaringamotu. My own tūpuna would have frolicked around in the bush, catching the kereru pigeon on their seasonal travels as they went around the motu of Te Waipounamu. I can just see them now occupying the bush area, as it would have been quite an extensive forest in those days. So, yes, there is a lot of history and a lot of connection that all the communities have with that area. I do acknowledge the Hon Gerry Brownlee for supporting this bill, the other “member for Riccarton Bush” within the great, vast area of Te Tai Tonga. We also support it in recognition, also, of that historical connection.
I was just thinking about the issue that Eugenie Sage, the Green member, raised earlier regarding the feral pigeons. I am pretty sure that some members of Ngāi Tūahuriri, after their mutton bird season expeditions, could do something about that if they were given the opportunity.
This is a bill that I am pleased to support. I was just having a flick through, and I have one suggestion, which I hope is considered by the select committee. It was raised by Ms Sage, and it would be perhaps to consolidate or recast the bill into a single Act. It is 98 years old now, the initial 1940 legislation that set up the trust. Then we have had a succession of amendment bills: I think there was a significant one in 1947, and then a series of ones that came further on. Thank goodness we have got electronic updates on legislation these days, because back in the day when they had to glue in the pieces of amendments, in terms of the statute book, to deal with trying to piece this piece of legislation together would be quite a task. So that would be just one suggestion that perhaps will be taken up through submissions to the select committee.
I know that the trustees want to retain that historic connection, I guess, through the legislation, but the purpose of the bill is to modernise and to bring the processes of the board up to date, and perhaps that could be a worthwhile suggestion—to modernise the whole Act completely and recast it into a single consolidated Act in 2012.
There is a great history there. I also like to think, in recognition of that history, that these are taonga, these kahikatea trees. I do not know too much about botany, but I do know that the kahikatea is the tallest native tree, and it is significant in Māoridom because we have a pepeha saying “Me uru kahikatea”. The kahikatea is the tallest tree. You always see kahikatea trees in clumps. You will never see a single tree, and it is
because of the roots of the kahikatea. They bind together, and that is what “Me uru kahikatea” means: to bind together and stay strong. So perhaps recognition of Putaringamotu in the make-up of Riccarton Bush would be appropriate as well. But I support this bill through to the select committee. Kia ora tātou.
MOJO MATHERS (Green)
: It is my pleasure to speak to the Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill tonight. Like others who have spoken here from Christchurch, Riccarton Bush has special significance for me for several reasons. As a young student more than 25 years ago I used to wander through the bush, and I have to confess that because at that time the bush was quite trampled and degraded, I did not find it that impressive compared with some other places that you can be in the South Island. But a couple of years later, when on a guided tour as part of my ecology class, the significance of the bush was explained to me and my eyes were really opened. I should explain that there are hardly any places left in the Canterbury ecological region where the original vegetation remains. In fact, it is less than 1 percent, which is pitiful. So this means that every remnant is incredibly precious and deserves the best protection, management, and preservation for future generations.
Riccarton Bush serves as a reminder of what the Canterbury Plains used to be like before human settlement, and I think we always need that reminder. Since I was first there 25 years ago the bush has made a remarkable recovery under the management of the Riccarton Bush Trust. I agree with the Hon Gerry Brownlee that it is now one of the hidden gems of Christchurch. In particular, the rejuvenation and restoration of the bush that has occurred during the last 25 years has been absolutely wonderful, and much of this progress has happened since the predator-proof fence was erected. That has allowed the native flora and fauna to flourish, birdlife to thrive, and so on. That has also allowed the reintroduction of small populations of the Canterbury tree wētā and the threatened Canterbury gecko, which are now both in the area, and also a creche for juvenile kiwi before they are released into the wild. So it is growing and flourishing all the time. I understand that they are now planning to reintroduce other bird species such as tomtits and the rifleman.
With such a wonderful vision for Riccarton Bush I think it is absolutely timely that the management, plans, and so on, and the way that it is being governed, are updated, because this will allow the vision to really flourish in the future. When it comes to public submissions the Green Party will welcome the Local Government and Environment Committee hearings being held in Christchurch to allow the local public to submit, and to hear their particular input as to how the vision for further restoration of the bush can be improved upon. Thank you.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam)
: I thank all members for their contributions on this bill, the Riccarton Bush Amendment Bill. I am sure it will be quite an enjoyable select committee process for those who are involved, because this is a part of Canterbury, and, indeed, Christchurch, that has a very rich history. I want to just acknowledge that the very first chairman of the Riccarton Bush Trust after the gift in 1914 was John Deans III. He was the son of John Deans II, who was the son of John Deans, the brother of William Deans. William Deans died very shortly after their arrival in Canterbury, and John Deans farmed that property himself for quite some time. Then, of course, when he went back to Scotland, he married Jane Deans. Jane McIlraith was her maiden name, and he had been betrothed to her, I think, for some 12 years, and finally went back to marry her. Whilst coming back to New Zealand he was horseback riding on the Isthmus of Panama, got caught in the rain, took a cold, and never really recovered from that. So John Deans II really did not get to know his father as well as he might have. He, of course, then had a very large family. The property that is being
amalgamated by the trust today became the home of, I think, John Deans III, who was also the first chairman of the trust that I spoke of before.
In my time I have known Patrick Deans, who was a trustee, Hugh Deans, Richard Deans, and Hugh’s son, whose name escapes me just at the present time but who has been a great contributor. And, of course, the chairman today is Charles Deans. In between times Richard Harrington, who was the Mayor of Riccarton, was chairman of the trust for a very long time. So it has had very good stewardship from people who are quite passionate about it. Denis O’Rourke mentioned one of the trustees before who was equally passionate about the place.
The connection to Homebush was mentioned by Ruth Dyson, and that of course is also a home that has been lost due to the earthquakes, and that brings its own sadness. Some of the barns that went with the farm on the property of Christchurch Boys’ High School have also been lost, after so many years. So it is important that that house does get back on its feet and does get recovered.
Can I just also mention that in a country like New Zealand, where we have so few degrees of separation, for the time I was on the trust the trust’s secretary was Roger Cave. Roger Cave is the brother-in-law of Prime Minister John Key. So there are a lot of connections in this House, not only to local members but to others as well.
In the front of the property, away from the bush, there is quite a splendid stand of oak trees. The seeds for those oak trees were provided to the Deans family, to Jane Deans and her son, by Governor George Grey. They are known as the George Grey oaks. They stand there very proudly. But I am pleased that so many people have recognised the value of the bush itself—the remnant stand of kahikatea. The site is known, as the member for Te Tai Tonga pointed out, as Putaringamotu. I believe that is “the place of the severed ear”. I have asked Rick Tau a number of times exactly what the story was behind that, and he has given a bit of a gruff laugh and never really let on what it was about. I suspect he was trying to make up something that was pretty fantastic.
At the time we launched the management plan for this bush, Rick Tau did speak on behalf of Ngāi Tahu. He spoke most eloquently, as he always does about the value of whichever particular project he is involved in. He said of this place that he was happy that Ngāi Tahu could always have communication with the trustees, but did not need to be on the trust because the original lease to the Deans brothers was a genuine one. It was for some 6 miles in a radius from the site that is roughly where the house is now. He made the comment that when the settling company the Canterbury Association came to New Zealand in 1850, both the Māori and the Deans got done. I am sure that many of the explanations for these stories will come out during the Committee stage, the second reading, and the third reading, and I look forward to all those processes.
Thank you to all the members who have done so much work on this bill, and I must say that although I am proud to bring it to the House, other people have done the work behind it, including the legal services team from the Christchurch City Council, and they should be congratulated on that. Thank you.
referred to the Local Government and Environment Committee.