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High Country spend-up

9 October 2008

High Country spend-up

Federated Farmers High Country chairman, Donald Aubrey says the government’s purchase of St James High Country Station is likely to influence a Land Valuation Tribunal Hearing in Dunedin next week. The tribunal will consider the legitimacy of values used to set new rent for South Island pastoral leases.

St James incorporates New Zealand’s largest pastoral lease, 78,196 hectares. It has been purchased by the government for $40 million as a designated park.

Mr Aubrey says the sale is significant, not only because it is the largest but also because of the price paid.

“Clearly government isn’t going to buy something that it already owns. The $40 million payable to the Stevenson family represents the market rate which largely consists of a payment to extinguish the rights attributable to the lessee. It does not include the Crown’s interest in the land. It is that interest that the land valuation tribunal will consider. This is the basis on which pastoral lease rents are set.”

“More recently Land Information New Zealand has demanded additional rent payment for things such as the view,” Mr Aubrey said.

As part of the St James deal the Crown requires all livestock to be removed from the lease. Mr Aubrey says where Pastoral Lessees have controlled pests and weeds, the change of ownership now means this cost now falls on the taxpayer.

“Not only are there no livestock from which to gain revenue but the spread of some weeds without grazing will increase markedly. Large areas are expensive to maintain free of weeds and pests and will prove a considerable challenge for the Department of Conservation who now has this responsibility.”


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