Court rules covenant protection is forever
Farmers who have placed special natural areas of their properties under QEII covenants will take heart from a Supreme Court ruling against a developer, Federated Farmers President Katie Milne says.
"These ‘in perpetuity’ covenants mean ‘forever’.
"Rural and farming families comprise the majority of landowners behind the more than 4,400 covenants in New Zealand and they make this commitment to protect bush, wetlands and other areas of special biodiversity on their properties so they can be enjoyed for all future generations," Katie says.
The Supreme Court, backing earlier decisions by the High Court and Court of Appeal, ruled last week that the QEII National Trust covenant over a 400ha block near Tairua, on the Coromandel Peninsula, was valid.
The open spaces covenant was put in place by a reclusive man who lived in squalor after a homestead on his Coromandel property burnt down. While there were errors in the placing of the covenant on the title, all three Courts ruled against a subsequent owner of the land, who wanted to carve it up and develop and sell it for residential development.
Farmers are accused in some quarters of being no friend to the environment, yet farmers were pivotal in the establishment of the QEII National Trust 40 years ago.
"Rural landowners have been the instigators of more than two-thirds of QEII covenants since 1977 and a study last year by Waikato University estimated the opportunity costs associated with covenanted land in New Zealand is in the range of $443m to $638m," Katie says.
"The total estimated maintenance on covenants is $25m a year.
"So farmers have plenty of skin in the game with this form of biodiversity protection and we’re delighted to see the Courts rule in favour of the original landowner’s vision for protection in perpetuity vs a developer keen to turn a buck."