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High country lessees bewildered

13 October 2006

High country lessees bewildered

The government’s release today of the Armstrong report which it commissioned early in 2005 vindicates the long-held view of high country farmers that they have been paying market rentals for their pastoral leasehold lands, says Geoffrey Thomson, co-chair of the High Country Accord.

“We welcome their expert finding that recent rents have been set too high and that settlements under the land tenure review process have been fair.”

However, he says lessees are bewildered by the government’s proposal to reject these findings in favour of a proposal to increase rents on their farms.

“The Armstrong report concluded that there is no basis for claims that existing or proposed rentals are being set at a discount to the market. In fact, it concluded that most recently reviewed rentals are in excess of fair market rentals for pastoral leases,” Mr Thomson says.

“In response to the report the government has commissioned a Crown Law Office opinion which says the Armstrong report is wrong and which appears to say that rentals for high country leases have been incorrectly calculated since 1979.

“The High Country Accord is bewildered by this about-turn by the government and intends to obtain its own legal opinion of the law relating to the setting of pastoral leasehold rentals.

“We are at a loss to understand how the government can refute the detailed information and conclusions of the report, as well as the practice of crown valuers since 1979.

“We hope to resolve this unexpected response by negotiation, but if necessary we should look to the courts to protect the rights and interests of lessees.”


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