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Tenure review failing taxpayers, conservation

22 September 2006

Tenure review failing taxpayers, conservation

Evidence is now overwhelming that tenure review in the South Island is not delivering the results the public expect, and the Government must stop the process and re-evaluate it, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

The tenure review process has been underway in the South Island since 1998. It was designed to allow holders of perpetual grazing leases on Crown-owned high country land to obtain full private ownership rights over some areas in return for handing back areas of high conservation and biodiversity value to the Crown.

However, figures released recently on the individual transactions show that the process has not been working as planned.

"These figures show that the balance of payments between the Crown and the lessees is weighted heavily against the taxpayer. At the same time conservation values are not being protected," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"This is publicly owned land where the lessee has a perpetual right of occupation and grazing. The lessee does not own the rights to subdivision, economic development other than grazing, or the economic value of the fantastic scenery.

"Yet we, the taxpayers, are paying much more per hectare to buy out grazing leases on the most unproductive land than the lessees are paying for full privatisation and development rights of the most valuable lakeshores and valley floors.

"In some cases we are paying ten times as much per hectare for steep bluffs with little grazing value as we are getting for giving up land with highly sought-after subdivision and tourism potential.

"Added to this, research at Landcare has shown that conservation and biodiversity values are not being protected. The most value bale conservation areas with the most threatened species, which tend to be at lower altitudes, are being privatised. Not a lot lives on the mountaintops which are going back to DOC.

"The Government must call a halt at once while it rethinks the valuation methods used by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) to ensure the public interest is protected. If LINZ cannot be relied on to get a good deal for the taxpayer then the process must be opened up to allow the public to scrutinise deals before they go through," Ms Fitzsimons says.


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