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: foreign ownership
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.