The extent of native grasslands decreased dramatically between 1840 and 2002. This was largely the result of high-country farmers burning and grazing tussocks and converting land to pasture.
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Source: Alan Mark and Bruce McLennan, 'The conservation status of New Zealand’s indigenous grasslands.' University of Otago School of Business, http://eprints.otago.ac.nz/151/ (last accessed 27 July 2007)