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Nats high country policy welcomed by runholders

Media release
24 October 2008

Nats high country policy welcomed by runholders

The High Country Accord says the National Party’s high country policy would be good for the environment, farmers and taxpayers.

Accord chair Ben Todhunter said the party’s promise to ensure that the setting of high country rentals is tied to the earning capacity of each property was absolutely critical to the continued survival of traditional high country farming.

“Last year the Labour-led government unilaterally changed the rental formula, so that farmers are rented for non-productive values like mountain views. As a result some farmers are now liable for rents which are larger than their gross farm income.”

Releasing his party’s agriculture policies yesterday, National agriculture spokesperson David Carter said National supported the principle of high country tenure review. He said the party believes a new approach is needed to restore confidence in the tenure review process and to ensure that the intent of the Crown Pastoral Lands Act is fulfilled.

“National will implement voluntary, good-faith negotiations between run-holders and government, ensure that the setting of high-country rentals is tied into the earning capacity of the farm property and is such that run-holders can continue to maintain properties at an acceptable level.”

Tenure review under Labour has been highly controversial.

The process enables farmers to freehold their land by buying the Crown’s interest in their perpetual leases, in return for the protection of land with ‘significant inherent values’. But Accord chair Ben Todhunter says this has provided a pretext for the government to force farmers to hand over large areas of tussock grassland that have been well-managed by farmers for generations.

“Because many farmers have refused to yield to these tactics, the government has changed their rental formulas to try and force their hand.”

Mr Carter said National recognises that high-country run-holders can be as effective in their stewardship of the land as the Crown – a fact borne out by recent independent research that the removal of stock from tussock grassland under tenure review had not resulted in any increase in native biodiversity.

Mr Todhunter said policies such as those announced by Mr Carter had the potential to provide positive outcomes for all who have an interest in the high country. He would welcome similar policies from other parties.

“Private landowners – and the high country is a prime example -- can be great stewards of the environment. Low intensity grazing of the high country is sustainable and is the heartland of New Zealand’s iconic Merino sheep industry.”


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