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Hear It First Hand, Minister

2 March 2005

Hear It First Hand, Minister

Land Information Minister Pete Hodgson is being mischievous in quoting one newspaper headline to tell Parliament 'this is what farmers think' about pastoral lease rent hikes, said Ben Todhunter, Chair of the South Island High Country section of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

"The Minister and indeed everyone else know that High Country farmers have nothing to do with writing individual newspaper headlines. The Minister would be much better briefed if he talked to actual High Country farmers about the government exploring unjustifiable rent increases for High Country runs," Mr Todhunter said.

Mr Todhunter said High Country families are disappointed in Mr Hodgson quoting a newspaper headline, 'Farmers expected high-country rent rises', during Parliament's Question Time on March 1. Mr Todhunter said the headline is not an appropriate reflection of what farmers expected from the government.

"The Minister would have known this after reading a South Island High Country press release issued last week. Farmers are most certainly not sanguine about rent hikes, as the headline suggests. Instead, lessees feel that the government is holding a gun to their heads to force them to enter the 'voluntary' tenure review process."

Tenure review involves leaseholders giving up their perpetual leases in return for some freehold farm land, handing the rest to the Crown.

"Farmers want secure tenure and confidence to invest. They already pay market rents for their High Country leases, but the government is using the threat of unjustifiable rent hikes to force a supposedly voluntary tenure review process on them. "I would be happy to meet further with the Minister to explain clearly the High Country's position on fair rental for High Country leases, and clear up any misperceptions," Mr Todhunter said.

ENDS

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