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Who Owns the High Country

Media Release

who-owns.jpgWho Owns the High Country is a startling expose of bureaucracy gone wrong. This controversial story tells of how and why large chunks of high country in the South Island were sold off for knock-down prices, in a process that was hidden from public view.

The author of this book, Dr Ann Brower, through her research into the politics of land reform, exposed this quiet scandal. She discovered that the Crown had been paying the runholders of South Island high country stations to freehold parts of their pastoral lease farms, subsequently leaving them to subdivide their newly–owned land for massive profits.

Crown land that has gone into private ownership, included significant parts of the shorelines of Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Hawea and Wakatipu, as well some of the finest vineyard country in Central Otago, were all sold at negative prices. The current owners of these newly privatised estates have now started selling parcels of their land. Estimates of the current accrued profits from these sales total $122m, but with only approximately 20% of the land available sold, this figure will certainly rise over the next few years.

Who Owns the High Country explains how and why this process was allowed to go unchecked. Documenting the rise and fall of farmer domination, of high country land reform and the government’s efforts to reform this flawed policy. This important book, is required reading for anyone who cares about the high country of the South Island and anyone interested in the drama, intrigue, and import of the inner-workings of power.

Notes for editors:
In the first 15 years of the Tenure Review Policy, the government has paid out over $18.5 million in the privatisation process. Currently the Government payment figure for 2008 alone is $9 million.

Whilst the Government made dramatic efforts to reform their flawed tenure review policy, in a back door move on 21st March 2008 (Good Friday) they quietly announced its first new deal in nearly two years – at Mt Cook Station, near Lake Pukaki in the Mackenzie District. A few weeks later, it announced three more deals – at Mesopotamia, Redcliffe, and Mt Potts Sta¬tions. In total, these deals shifted nearly 39,000 hectares to public conservation land, and privatised 8500 hectares* (18%). Of the privatised land, all lakeshore land has a landscape covenant on it that prohibits most development and all subdivision.

Fish & Game New Zealand is now filing for a declaratory judgment from the High Court, drawing on the Brower analysis around ‘exclusive possession’ on pages 39 – 43 of Who Owns the High Country? This will clarify the exact nature of Crown pastoral leases for all parties and Fish & Game has invited the Crown and the High Country Accord, in their capacity as the parties to the current pastoral lease arrangements, to join the proceedings.

Dr Ann Brower was raised in North Carolina in the USA. She completed her MA at Yale and her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, before coming to New Zealand on a Fulbright Scholarship. She is currently a lecturer in Public Policy at Lincoln University.

Who Owns the High Country by Dr Ann Brower is published by Craig Potton Publishing and can be purchased from all good bookstores or online at
RRP$29.99 ISBN 978-1-877333-78-1

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