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High Country selloff scandal laid bare

Written By: - Date published: 2:11 pm, January 21st, 2018 - 33 comments
Categories: Conservation, farming, labour, national, Privatisation - Tags:

A feature in yesterday’s Domion Post Weekend lays bare the extent of the scandalous selloff of huge tracts of our high country.

Charlie Mitchell’s report details how the tenure review of the high country has been conducted since it began in 1992 when many leasehold farms became uneconomic and a process was established to review the leaseholds by privatising some of the land and bringing parts into the conservation estate. The process has been followed by both National and Labour governments.

Mitchell’s article reveals:

  • The review covers over 2 million hectares of land, some 10 percent of the whole country, an area larger than the state of Israel
  • Tenure reviews since 1998 show that the taxpayer has paid nearly $65 million to privatise land it owned which in some cases has been sold for huge capital gains
  • The public has surrendered all rights to 430,000ha of the high country’s most productive land, parts of which have become luxury retreats, gated developments, tourism ventures, intensively farmed land or billionaire’s playgrounds
  • Around 14 percent of the privatised land has some form of covenant.
  • Much of the process has been secretive and not open to public scrutiny
  • Much of land was originally bought from Maori through a series of “meagre” payments for which
  • Maori were promised reserves and access to resources – promises that were broken by the Crown
    Around 14 percent of the privatised land has some form of covenant
  • Key sales to foreign buyers required no Overseas Investment Office review
  • Alpha Burn Station a few minutes from Wanaka and with 5.5km of Lake Wanaka shoreline, saw 190ha of prime property privatised without public protection for a net $50,000. It was resold almost immediately to rich lister Craig Heatley for $10.6 million, who after failing to win a subdivision battle, resold it to US billionaire, libertarian, and Trump adviser, Peter Theil, for $13.5 million. The capital gain computes at 37,000 percent, none of which is taxable
  • The taxpayer paid $5000 to privatise Glendhu Station. Now in three parts, one part has been sold with a partly finished golf course on it, for $16.7 million; another part is valued at $8.5 million and a third at $3.4 million.
  • One family owned Alpha Burn and Glendhu Stations, collectively paying $45,000 for 6000ha of Wanaka lakefront that today is valued at $45million.
  • An analysis by an author on the subject, Ann Bower, published in 2015 found the median capital gain of sales after tenure reviews was 69,200 percent
  • Across all tenure reviews since 1998, land valued at $320 million was bought by farmers for $143m, while land valued at $78m was purchased by the Crown for $208m
  • A furore over the sale of Richmond Station on the shore of Lake Tekapo caused the Clark Labour government to suspend the reviews, but the Key National government restarted the process in 2009, with then Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson saying the Crown didn’t need more conservation land
  • As recently as May, the leaseholders of Airies Station in Burkes Pass purchased the whole station freehold for $2.8 million, and the Crown paid out the same amount to cancel the payment. A quarter of the land was covenanted but no public access was granted.

33 comments on “High Country selloff scandal laid bare”

  1. Keepcalmcarryon 1

    Creating the landed gentry in our once egalitarian country. Paying farming families who were mostly born on to their properties to become multi millionaires.
    A short sighted move in the 1940s to change the legal status of the leases, and a rort begun by national in the 1990s and limped through with by labour. Worsened by the sellout Key government.
    Many of these properties have insufficient access to the public portion too.
    Who is going to tidy this up?

  2. adam 2

    Counting backwards I count you in
    I don’t remember him
    I don’t remember
    In time I rope you in again
    I try and turn you back through him
    I built a tower in my bones
    I spill the mortar through my home
    Don’t let your heartbeat keep you safe
    No telling what keeps me awake
    One hundred fingerprints I hear
    A hundred linger in my ear
    Measure fortune killing time

    Songwriters: Kirstin Hersh

    Feels like NZ and our land through and through. Greed is a common feature of capitalism – crazy greed is what we now live with.

  3. cleangreen 3

    Thanks for this Simon,

    “As recently as May, the leaseholders of Airies Station in Burkes Pass purchased the whole station freehold for $2.8 million, and the Crown paid out the same amount to cancel the payment. A quarter of the land was covenanted but no public access was granted.”

    So the National Party were still flogging off our own crown land while we were kept in the dark at the time by that scoundrel of a last government??????

    This is a scandal pure and clear.

    Winston was hot on selling off great amounts of our land and I recall national saying in defence it only represented a “fraction of our land’

    Lies lies and more lies. = National.

    • greg 3.1

      we need an investigation into that whole bloody party and jail the bastards the whole 9 years was just pure theft no better than a 3rd world dictators stealing from the country

  4. We should probably call the whole process theft (the people of NZ have been screwed over by this), jail a few people, and renationalise the whole lot with no compensation.

  5. RedLogix 5

    This along with the wider topic of public access is the topic that tipped me into being politically concious back in 2005.

    The tramping and hunting communities have been very aware of this for a long time now, and the whole story is one of greed, soft corruptions, official incompetence and/or collusion, and an ugly streak of ‘landed gentry’ arrogance thrown in.

    More than anything nowadays my connection to NZ is defined by a deep attachment to our high country, and seeing it flogged off like this drives me to a white-hot anger that just isn’t good for me. I’d happily see all the land thus stolen confiscated, and public flogging thrown in for the satisfaction of it.

    OK so that’s not going to happen; hopefully this govt has the balls to stop the process and cast a bright light on the abuses that have taken place.

  6. halfcrown 6

    ” but it hasn’t been getting the media attention that it needs”

    Nah you have your priorities wrong Draco The media have much more important things to tell us about like Farrar’s bullshit as pointed out in Swordfish’s excellent post yesterday.

    Open Mike 20/01/2018

  7. timeforacupoftea 7

    Hmmmm I remember Aunty Helen Clark couldn’t get into St James Station for a hike once.
    This is what she did !
    What a useless baggage she was.
    Paid the guy $40 million and gave him a knight hood.
    This was as bad as Cullen buying back the run down rail network $800 million.

    All politicians are fuckwits when it comes to egos.

    Govt buys $40m high country station
    8 Oct, 2008 12:12pm 2 minutes to read
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10536440
    Herald online
    By: Jarrod Booker
    KEY POINTS:

    The Government has announced the $40 million purchase of spectacular high country land to guarantee public use into the future.

    The purchase of the 78,196 hectare St James Station, in the central South Island, envelopes the largest Crown pastoral lease in the country.

    Prime Minister Helen Clark said the purchase protected the precious land from farming and development.

    “It is located on three mountain ranges, and contains the headwaters of two major Canterbury rivers, the Waiau and the Clarence. It has eleven different tramping routes, the Amuri ski field, and great mountain biking, fishing, kayaking, horse riding, and hunting opportunities,” Helen Clark said.

    “The property’s almost untouched landscape is dominated by exceptional natural features such as glaciated valleys, glacial moraine deposits, streams, wetlands, lakes, and high altitude tarns.”

    The station also had a rich history to protect, including Maori access routes across the top of the South Island that ran through the station, and early European heritage sites.

    The Government has bought the property from the Stevenson family, who have owned the property since 1927.

    “We have long dreamed of purchasing the lease so this magnificent property could become part of the conservation estate,” said Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick.

    “The Government will take advice on the property’s long term status. It could become either a conservation park or a national park.”

    A spokesperson for the Stevenson family, Mark Tavendale, said the family was pleased the Government would preserve the property’s unique landscape for future generations and increase public access.

    “The family was concerned that an owner other than the Crown could have had a very different set of priorities for the land.”

    “That could have inhibited public access and resulted in the property being developed more intensively for farming purposes, which the family is not in favour of.”

    The Crown will take possession of St James Station later this month.

    • Kat 7.1

      …….AND a lie down for you I suspect. What the heck was wrong with buying the St James Station to guarantee public access. Key would have sold it off to some cheap Chinese bike manufacturer and then Wilsons would have be in like Flynn to monitor the car parking.

      NZ Rail will make good on the investment Cullen made, just have to get shod of the neolibs hands on the levers once and for all.

      And yes the time is now for Maori to step up and show what this country could have been if the Treaty had been fully honoured.

      We are at the dawn of new beginnings if we want it to happen.

    • mac1 7.2

      I mentioned this sale at an election meeting in 2008. My thought was that farmers would appreciate a sale that was a fair price and mutually agreed.

      The local National MP of the time, Colin King, attacked the deal to a room full of nodding farmers’ heads.

      Their collective concern was an issue that was very wrong. They argued that too high a price would affect local rates and farmers would pay more in rates as a result.

      That was the only concern, false as it was.

  8. Stuart Munro 8

    Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
    Who never to himself hath said,
    This is my own, my native land!

    Seems Wellington is full of the creatures.

  9. Macro 9

    I guess this is how Maori feel regarding the theft of their land over the past 150 odd years – and the continuing need for a Waitangi Tribunal to in some way reverse the wrongs.

    • ropata 9.1

      The Americans aren’t quite as civilised as the English; and the Chinese, well ’nuff said. We do not want to become a vassal state to either criminal empire thank you very much.

      • Macro 9.1.1

        I quite agree!
        I was merely referring to the outrage being expressed by some commentators (and quite rightly so). I was also noting that this was not the first time that land had been stolen from the rightful owners in NZ, and observing that the outrage being felt now would be even more so back then.

        • savenz 9.1.1.1

          If the government wanted to give the land away, at least give back to the original owners aka Maori, or give them the right of refusal!

  10. Incognito 10

    At least NZ has preserved some of the century-old ‘traditions’ of the British Empire such as the legalised ‘theft’ from (the) commons (AKA enclosure), for example: http://unionsong.com/u765.html.

  11. Thinkerr 11

    Once was a time when the big estates were compulsorily broken up, in the pursuit of democracy.

    If things dont change soon, a hundred years of social progress will be cancelled out.

    And yet, when the world was where we are heading, people (some very wealthy) saw fit to try and make progressive changes.

    • bwaghorn 11.1

      it what landcorp should become , buy the big blocks split them into 5 to 6 000 stock unit farms and lease them to young kiwis , with rules around water and fert etc

      • savenz 11.1.1

        Good idea bwaghorn. Sadly it is very hard to make a living from farming these days, but at least could work for those who would otherwise be unemployed. At least there is dignity and self sufficiency in being able to lease farm land affordably for those doing it.

  12. CHCOff 12

    But who won the big game on the weekend anyone know??

  13. whatisis 13

    Off with their heads, really, we need the death penalty on this theft.

    • Incognito 13.1

      I really like your thinking but the fly in the ointment is that they can afford really good lawyers and the self-imposed austerity rule will prevent the Government of starting many prosecutions; the possible involvement of foreigners might be another complication. However, there are other forms of ‘justice’ that are more ‘expedient’ …

      • bwaghorn 13.1.1

        why blame the farmers when it was the government including labour that made it happen

        • Incognito 13.1.1.1

          I’m not blaming anybody; I just enjoy the spectacle of a good public flogging or execution 😉

          Seriously though, I agree that there are many contributing parties to this sad saga and that major involvement & responsibility lay with local & central government, over many years. If somebody waves under your nose a Lotto Ticket that has just won a multi-million dollar Jackpot/Powerball and then gives it to you not many would say no and not accept it. Simplistic analogy, I know, but that’s what it more or less amounts to as far as I can tell.

    • ropata 13.2

      Yes the previous “government” were really close to the textbook definition of treason

  14. savenz 14

    Excellent but shocking post.

    You can’t believe governments (and it seems like this is both Labour and National) could be so stupid.

    Giving away NZ heritage seems to be what individual politicians seem to be able to do, robbing the current and future generations so that they can follow an ideology that just increases inequality and political theft to benefit the rich and super rich.

    It should be a crime to do this, – ordinary people are punished for stupidity and theft and corruption, why not politicians?

  15. fang Elmsly 15

    haven’t we been telling the world that NZ is free of corruption?..?

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