Ministers put public land in private hands

Written By: - Date published: 9:28 am, January 24th, 2011 - 27 comments
Categories: Conservation, corruption, farming, privatisation - Tags: , ,

You’ll remember the disgraceful Schmuck scandal when Minister John Carter had clauses inserted into legislation specifically to legalise Doug Schmuck’s annexation of a public reserve. John Key took no action. Now, Kate Wilkinson and David Carter got in on the act – forcing DoC to sign over more public land for private use.

From the Press:

Nutrient enrichment from agricultural development and the lack of riparian protection are major problems at Lake Ellesmere.

Greenpark dairy farmer Barry Clark was told by DOC in May that his grazing licence on conservation land near Lake Ellesmere, south of Christchurch, would not be renewed.

A recent water quality report identified it as the second-most polluted lake in the country. A report from DOC’s Mahaanui area office, written in November, says the area grazed by Clark’s cattle was of high ecological value.

The report said allowing Clark to continue grazing cattle “would be both inconsistent with our policy of lake margin protection and also unfair on those other concessionaires who we have modified or cancelled their licences to exclude cattle from lake margin lands”.

A Department of Conservation ecologist, who assessed the site in November, said Clark’s cattle were damaging the grazing site and having a detrimental effect on the lake’s ecosystem.

[Clark says] “It’s [the conservation land] part of the farm, to be quite honest with you,”

“It’s good farmland in my opinion, like the country needs – it would be a shame to see it go back to rack and ruin.”

So, this guy is being allowed to graze his cattle, for free, on our land and it is buggering up Lake Ellesmere. The arrogant bugger considers our land part of his farm and thinks that protecting the lake is letting the land ‘go to ruin’. Fair enough that his lease not be renewed, then. But this is where the Nats get involved.

Official documents released to The Press under the Official Information Act reveal Clark complained to National’s Selwyn MP Amy Adams, who raised the matter with Wilkinson.

Clark, whose family had grazed the land for more than a century, said he was advised early in 2010 by DOC that his lease would expire in June and he was asked to reapply – which gave him the impression that a “renewal was available”. DOC’s decision not to renew the licence was overturned at a meeting in August involving Canterbury-based ministers Wilkinson and Carter, Clark and Mahaanui area manager Bryan Jensen, and a five-year extension was approved.

What the hell are ministers doing at a meeting on what is surely an operational matter? Why do these ministers have the time to devote to one farmer’s lease but we can’t expect Paula Bennett to do anything when a mother of a horribly abused girl writes to her asking for help?

Extending the lease contravened DOC’s policy of removing grazing from the lake edge to protect the environment and upset some DOC staff.

It also contradicted what Clark was told by the department in 2004 – that the next five-year term of his lease would be his last.

Clark’s lease is the last for grazing cattle on conservation land around the lake’s edge.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said it was shocking National Party ministers were leaning on DOC “to allow a farmer to pollute the lake even more than it is already polluted”.

Forest & Bird Canterbury/West Coast field officer Jen Miller said she was extremely concerned at high-level ministerial intervention.

“It is particularly concerning that the Minister of Conservation should choose to ignore the advice of her staff.”

Wilkinson said the ministers organised the meeting because of an apparent misunderstanding.

“An extra five years is not hugely significant in terms of the 100 or so years it has already been granted.”

The nice thing about that logic is it never wears out – every extra lease make the tradition stronger and the new lease relatively less significant. I’m not sure what the ‘misunderstanding’ was either.

Carter rejected any suggestion the ministers had bullied bureaucrats. He was surprised at the sudden change in tone from DOC and was concerned more land was falling into DOC’s hands.

“more land falling into DoC hands? The minister means ‘more ecologically sensitive public land being protected, preventing pollution of an important lake’, surely? And, just to add insult to injury, the government then lied to the local iwi:

Ngai Tahu and the Minister of Conservation have a joint management plan for Lake Ellesmere.

In September, more than a month after it was decided Clark’s lease would be extended, Ngai Tahu contacted DOC to ask why it was not consulted.

DOC staff replied “no concession had been processed or issued” and Clark’s application would be sent to the Canterbury Conservation Board and Ngai Tahu for comment.

Norman said it was extraordinary that the Government “lied” to Ngai Tahu by suggesting the decision had not been made.

This stinks to high heaven. Will smile and wave act?

Oh and while he’s at it, could Key please investigate Carter’s decisions that have favoured meat processing companies that he has shares in?

27 comments on “Ministers put public land in private hands”

  1. Tigger 1

    Good post and nice work by the Press. After over two years of this shonky lot this all feels like par for the course now. I’m not surprised this has happened. I’m suprised that hearing this news no longer shocks me.

  2. vto 2

    This matter illustrates how various Government Ministers have been sticking their noses in all over Canterbury especially. In particular David Carter.

    The farmers and Carter walk hand-in-hand. There are ‘deals’ and nods and winks all over this region. It is well known.

    Good post. Highlights the way this government operates. Underhand, devious, and pushing as hard as the environment and opposition can take.

    And you are right that it stinks to high heaven.

  3. Kevin Welsh 3

    “He was surprised at the sudden change in tone from DOC and was concerned more land was falling into DOC’s hands”.

    No, Carter you fuckwit, it is remaining in OUR hands.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    Its cronyism.
    Tolley does it for Auckland Grammar
    English did it for PETA Ltd and now another blatant example .

    Apparently other farmers have had their leases modified or land set aside but not when you talk to the right people

    • Deadly_NZ 4.1

      Well when Labour come in to power, they will have to look at all these Illegal things and reverse them and in the case of this Farmer he should be billed for the damage is cows are doing to the lake. Because this is a Blatant fuck you from carter and the NACTS

      • millsy 4.1.1

        Bill him? Make the hillbilly forfeit his farm and then sell it off to recover the cleanup costs.

        We need to come down on farmers like bricks. And we need to do to them what they do to us if we step outside what is acceptable. Make them destitute.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    National: Destroying the countries environment for themselves and their rich mates.

    It’s stuff like this that really annoys me. The cronyism and corruption stink to high heaven and yet NACT don’t get held to account for it.

  6. Jono 6

    I loved Amy Adams in Julie and Julia and Night at the Museum II. This, not so much.

    Two Ministers versus one DOC Area Manager over an operational matter is so innapropriate and so much overkill over a grazing lease it boggles the mind, do they not have any bigger fish to fry? The Minister might visit an Area office once per term, if that!

    You just gotta love the phrasing about how land “falls into DOC hands”…I can just hear Al Morrison’s evil genius laugh from here.

  7. Bill 7

    If the conservation land was a part of the farm, was there no mechanism whereby the farmer could receive compenation for any negative financial impact the loss of that land would entail? I do understand that it was leasehold and so, hey…thems the breaks if the lease isn’t renewed or extended. But still. If you are a family who has derived a livelihood from a piece of land for a hundred years and (for arguments sake) find that the entire property is of high ecological value, then what? Just pack up and hit the road?

    I’m aware that people living in houses on DOC land have arrangements whereby the land reverts back to DOC upon their death and the house gets demolished at that point. And whereas running a dairy farm doesn’t equate in terms of impact on the environment, I can’t help but wonder if there is a possibility for some novel initiative that would satisfy all concerned parties.

  8. ianmac 8

    Surely this was just part of the farm near the lake and not the loss of the whole farm? And back in 2004 I believe that the farmer was told that that would be his last 5-year lease ending in 2010. He knew the score!

    • Bill 8.1

      Yup. I know it wasn’t the whole farm. I was using a hypothetical scenario of a farm beng completely composed of ecologically sensitive land because I don’t think anyone, were that the scenario, would advocate that they be forced to simply walk away from their family home of 100 years and (possibly) into the arms of destitution.

      And that being the case, then any workable scenario advocated for dealing with that extreme situation should surely be rolled out (to a required extent) for scenarios where proportions of farms revert to the DOC.

      And I know that leasehold is leasehold and so people shouldn’t invest ongoing expectations on that land being available to them. But people do. And I reckon that’s prefectly understandable after 100 years of tenancy.

      Meanwhile, am I correct in remembering the Labour government paying farmers for land around Queenstown in order that it be conserved? And okay, that land probably wasn’t leasehold, but why not pay leasees compensation for lost income but not for lost land?

      I don’t know the answer. And I know these farmers aren’t going to become landless peasants and some may actually be quite wealthy. But, you know…

  9. tc 9

    2011 Slogan from NACT should be “a continued relentless focus on favouring our rich mates to make them even richer at everyone else’s expense..”

  10. tsmithfield 10

    To be fair, as the article points out, DOC cocked up.

    They wrote to the farmer inviting him to reapply for the lease. Given that the offer to reapply was initiated by DOC, it would have been reasonable for the farmer to expect and plan for the lease being extended, assuming he hadn’t breached the terms of the previous lease. Otherwise, what would the point have been in DOC making the offer if they had no intention of granting it?

    Given that scenario, the farmer may well have rearranged his affairs to match what he may have justifiably thought was a formality.

    • Hilary 10.1

      The wording of the letter is not given, but it was probably standard DOC wording about the lease being up and that he could reapply for it to be extended. That is similar to letters from ACC or Work and Income turning down your claim but saying you can write applying for a review. Under your reasoning this means they are inviting you to try again with an expectation of success.

    • toad 10.2

      TS, if that were the case it could have been addressed, as frog suggests here, by negotiating financial compensation, rather than by allowing another 5 years’ worth of cowshit to go into the lake.

  11. deemac 11

    fittingly, schmuck means prick.

    • Explanation for Schumuck.

      Hymie was an unfortunate guy. He was sweaty and had bad breath and nobody liked him. His one wish in life was to be popular.One morning he decided to have a day a Brighton(UK) whilst there noticed this young fellow who was surrounded by girls, Everybody smiled at him and spoke to him he was very popular. Hymie asked him why he was so popular ?A camel said our hero ,camel ! said Hymie .Yes replied our hero ,Once I was like you ,but then I bought a camel ,I rode it around and in no time I had hundreds of invitations to dinners, Rotary, Lions the lot all wanted me.
      Hymie rushed home to *Hackney and bought a camel and a pith helmet and shorts and rode his camel up and down *Mare st for a while .feeling thirsty he tied the camel up in the car park and went and had a coffee at Cohens, When he returned the camel had gone. Poor Hymie ! He rang the police and told them his camel had been stolen Well the poor sargeant thought some nut was out. However he asked Hymie what colour the camel was
      “Sort of Khaki ” said Hynie oh and what sex was the Camel asked the sargeant . I dont know how would I know that said Hymie ,Oh just a minute it was a male .Are you sure’ said the Sargeant after all you did not know just now.”Yes !Yes !it was a male” . How do you know said the sargeant.Well said Hymie when I rode the camel up and down *Mare st all the shop keepers said “Lookat the Schumuck on that camel!!

      *Hackney Jewish area East London .Mare st Jewish shopping area.

  12. JonL 12

    “It’s stuff like this that really annoys me. The cronyism and corruption stink to high heaven and yet NACT don’t get held to account for it.”

    But let Labour do something, oh so trivial and pointless and and it’s “corruption on a scale never before seen on this planet”!!!!!

    • Trouble is how the hell do we get this type of news out too the general public? The average guy/guyes hasn’t the fogiest idea what is going on. Talk to joe blogs about these events and the majority have a blank face.I sometimes wonder if the majority are on pot or something.
      I’m sorry to repeat myself again but the other problem (big problem) is Textor/Crosby plus the money the Political Right has in its coffers.
      I don’t know how we get over this it’s a worry and concern. Conservative Parties world wide have a common cause and they are in league with each other . I wonder just what Hague and Key spoke about in secret and I am still concerned at the close relationship between Lord Ashwell and Key .

      • prism 12.1.1

        If politics was treated like sports and sports were treated like politics there would be great interest in the system that creates the shape of our lives.. Perhaps more fisticuffs and sledging is required to draw in the muscular and painted yoof and the old curmudgeons.

  13. Rich 13

    It would make sense for a future progressive government to lock DOC land up away from the National party and their cronies.

    I’d suggest converting DOC from a government department into an independent trust holding the land on behalf of everyone. It would need to be provided with an endowment that would produce an income to maintain the land (perhaps LandCorp farms and other public commercial land could form a core of this).

    Then, the Nats wouldn’t be able to steal the land back without a very overt act of confiscation.

  14. tc 14

    Nice thought Rich however when you create and change the rules (mostly via urgency with no oversight) as this gov’t has then you have to trust the gov’t rather than mitigate for its shortcomings.

    Now that’s something this gov’t never seems bothered about and in fact thrives in abusing the power and positions its ministers holds….along with deceiving, lying and not keeping its word.

  15. NickS 15

    And once more Wilkinson shows that she can’t understand really, really basic conservation biology. i.e. that large amounts of cow shit getting into freshwater systems leads more oft than not to stuffed up ecosystems, and that one of the ways of preventing that is keeping cattle away from freshwater features. I suppose the Minister’s excuse would be “but it’s only one farm”, but even one farm can create a large nutrient flux, especially when there’s a huge amount of nitrogen and phosphate available that you’re trying to get rid of in the first damn place.

    Though I hope Ngai Tahu actually takes court action over this, because like hell is Wilkinson going to listen to science, let alone public opinion as the mining fiasco showed.

    • Armchair Critic 15.1

      Could DoC require improvements to the land – riparian strips and planting, pre-treatment, and monitoring, as a condition of the renewed lease?

  16. randal 16

    forget all the policy analyst blah.
    this is straight political cronyism with no regard for anything except short term political gain to the exclusion of anything else.
    the national party is replete with neanderthals intent on clubbing all opposition.

  17. Drakula 17

    It’s cronyism plain and simple the Nat ministers are undermining the executive (DoC) in enforcing the law that the former E-can (now Nat-can) tried to enforce in order to prevent Lake Ellesmere from being badly polluted.

    Now that they are allowing the pollution to get worse this will only send out the wrong message to other farmers who are polluting the environment.

    If we don’t get rid of this government quick we are going to have dead rivers and lakes with the only life being algae blooms, worse still these polluted waterways could well be giving off toxic gasses such as methane and CO2 (and God knows what) that will create acid rain!!!!!

    Once acid rain falls on crops and folliage it will begin to burn the leaves and destroy those crops and even vegitable gardens in the urban areas and eventually the whole ecosystem will collapse!!!!

    To a certain extent this already happened in the northern hemisphere with the intensive industrial agriculture in Holland, namely pig farming.

    Pig Farts (methane) caused enough acid rain to destroy virtually the entire Canadian maple syrup industry.

    So the Maple syrup you buy in the supermarket is probably not the real McCoy, if you want the real stuff you will be spending a fortune on it.

  18. Drakula 18

    Armchair Critic; riparian rights is when the border of one properety is extended to the center of a waterway such as stream or river. New Zealand used to have a law such as the Queen’s Chain now that is a chain from the border of a waterway to the border of private property.

    As far as I am aware, over the years the Queens Chain has been seriously undermined and some members of the squatocracy have acquired riparian rights.
    Their argument is that as long as that waterway is under private custody the owners have a vested interest in protecting that stream and river.

    Of course this has proven to be absolute bullshit with the above case and also the Crafer’s farms etc.etc.etc. An unimpeacheable law like the Queens Chain X 3, planted with suitable foliage will go a long way in filtering out the nitrates that is leaching into the waterways.

    Politicains should never interfere in the executive process of enforcing the law even if one of their buddies is breaking that law. Then nobody will have any respect for either the law or politicians!!!

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