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Step Forward In High Country Protection

Friday 16 November 2007

A Major Step Forward In The Protection Of New Zealand’s High Country Heritage

The recent decision by the Minister of Land Information, David Parker to withdraw from the voluntary tenure review process on 65 lakeside high country properties in the South Island is welcomed and supported by Stop Tenure Review.

It believes this decision will also be supported by thousands of New Zealanders who are concerned by the continuing sell-off of thousands of hectares of high country under tenure review.

Stop Tenure Review is opposed to the privatisation of high country pastoral leases. It has warned about the subdivision of freehold land, particularly around prime lakeshores, degradation of biodiversity values, the possible destruction of classic high country landscapes, and grossly inequitable deals in terms of the public’s economic interest in tenure review agreements.

It believes that over the medium term there is a grave risk that lakeshore land, such as around Lakes Wanaka, Wakatipu and Tekapo, would be vulnerable to commercial development and sale to absentee owners. There is also concern that would mean even greater restrictions to public access than exists at the present time.

“The best protection for this lakeshore landscape is to keep it in public ownership under leasehold, and the Government has seen the logic of this approach, “says spokesperson Gottlieb Braun-Elwert .

“Once it is privatised, there is just not enough protection for this land under District Schemes and the RMA to prevent subdivision, and the destruction of our common heritage and a national asset.”

Stop Tenure Review notes similar concerns about protection of the common interest in Federated Farmers’ deliberations over ownership and control of Fonterra. Protection of thousands of hectares of prime pastoral lease is, in principle, a similar issue it believes.

The decision by the Government to negotiate over the reduction of increased rentals, following a change in how leases are valued, is also supported by Stop Tenure Review. This is an equitable way to compensate lessees for the protection of biodiversity or improved walking access.

Stop Tenure Review agrees with the Minister that the amenity values of a lease should be included in its valuation under section 131 of the Land Act 1948. Amenity values are one of the main reasons why the market value of high country pastoral land has rocketed in price compared to other farmland in recent years, and why leases have sold for millions of dollars.

To leave this factor out of any rental calculation, or valuation under tenure review, has resulted over many years in a major discounting of the public’s economic interest over nearly two million hectares of publicly owned land, or around 20% of the South Island.

Stop Tenure Review believes that this latest decision goes a long way to establishing the first priority of the Government’s objectives for the high country; that is to manage pastoral leases in a way that is ecologically sustainable for future generations of New Zealanders.

ENDS

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