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Heated Debate Over High Country Leases

The Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill completed its second reading after heated debate in the House.

The Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill will replace the land valuation basis for setting rents on pastoral leases (on mainly high country farms) with a system based on the income earning potential of the farm land.

Labour MP Raymond Huo said his party was opposing the bill because it was subsidising some high country farmers and did not reflect the real worth of the Crown owned land.

Agriculture Minister David Carter accused Labour of the politics of jealousy and envy and said their policies in Government had shown a ``lack of care for the most fragile farming environment’’ in the country.

He said former prime minister Helen Clark had attempted to ``drive’’ the farmers off the land and turn it into part of the conservation estate.

The Government now wanted to allow farmers to pay a rent based on the income they could take off the land while maintaining it for future generations. The Crown, he said, had proven to be a poor caretaker of the high country land.

Labour MP Damien O’Connor said he loved the iconic land that was covered in the bill and the value of the land had been pushed beyond its potential economic return

O’Connor said the Government’s proposals were not fair as they would allow some farmers to get land cheaply and then sell it on at a profit and the valuations had to be based on the real value of the land.

The valuation was unfair to the owners – the taxpayer – he said.

Labour was not opposed to income related rentals, but it had to be set up properly.

He said it was ironic that National was implementing income related rentals for farmers, but had opposed the introduction of income related rentals for state housing tenants.

Numerous MPs opposing the bill said some of the lease holders had benefited from cheap valuations and then on sold the land for large profits.

The bill completed its second reading by 63 to 58 with National, Maori Party and ACT supporting.

** is a breaking news source for New Zealand parliamentary business featuring broadcast daily news reports.

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