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Privatising the high country

Written By: - Date published: 1:30 pm, July 8th, 2009 - 29 comments
Categories: national/act government, privatisation - Tags: , ,

highcountrysold

According to Forest and Bird, John Key’s government has found a nice quiet way of hocking off New Zealand’s most prized assets to wealthy private interests.

National has indicated radical changes to tenure review – that’s the process South Island high country leaseholders can use to privatise parts of the farm in exchange for returning large tracts of land to the conservation estate.

So what is John Key’s government planning to do? Early indications are they’re planning to sell ALL remaining South Island high country leasehold land into private ownership.

New Zealanders, say goodbye to your birthright. Your land is being sold from under your feet, and John Key isn’t even asking you what you think about it.

– Alastair

29 comments on “Privatising the high country ”

  1. r0b 1

    Thanks for alerting us to this Alastair.

    How can we can oppose this process?

  2. cocamc 2

    And didn’t Labour buy some high country land for $40m before the 2008 election. They didn’t ask me if I wanted to buy that with public money. $40m might have been better spent on other areas.

    • Frack-checker 2.1

      Do they usually ask for your opinion on every $40 million spend?

      • indiana 2.1.1

        Don’t worry Comac…you weren’t even asked if they could buy a train set.

  3. Did’nt that nice Mr Key promise not to privatise any public assets albeit in the first term?

    • Jasper 3.1

      Unfortunately high country isn’t classed as a public asset micky. It generally falls under the jurisdiction of Landcorp, rarely DOC, and landcorp are nothing more than estate holders in a sense.

      What’s more worrying is the lovely iwi of the far north about to get most of their land (Sweetwaters) back, +compo with no plans for any of it in terms of development. This is prime land, so we should see it descend into a farcicial mess as they don’t want to have any landcorp farmers turning a profit for them.
      Gee, is there money to be made in kumara and potato in land that’s less than fertile?

  4. Mark M 4

    Unfortunately high country lease hold land is not our birth right as we dont have rights over it.
    The farmers tenure is in perpetuity ( LIP )and is basically continually rolled over every 21 years.
    We cant wander over this land without the leaseholders permission.
    The LIP tenure is as close as you can get to freehold

    I got irritated initially when Labour bought in this tenure reveiw and some farmers did very well selling freehold land.
    The upside is the land generally with the most spectactular scenery reverts back to crown ownership.

    If there isnt tenure reveiw we dont get access to any of this land without permission.

    Which is better .
    Half of something or 100% of nothing.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      Of course we had rights over it – the land was leased not sold. All Labour had to do was require that the leaseholders repair the land at their expense or leave. They’d certainly been compensated – over several generations.

      • Mark M 4.1.1

        Draco

        if you rent your house or lease a commercial premises the only person who has rights of access to your property is the landlord.
        And that is with prior notice and permission.

        The High Country lessor is the crown who will have an appointed representative , with the access rights , not the general public.

        Unfortunately that means you and I have no more rights over the leased high country than you or I have over someones state house

  5. Red Rosa 5

    Hugely contentious issue. The land giveaway to date is extraordinary – $120m by one estimate. On the same scale as some Treaty settlements, but to a handful of farmers.

    Ann Brower is the Lincoln academic who first brought this to light.

    http://www.craigpotton.co.nz/products/published/books/bookwine/whoownsthehighcountry

    The book explains all, but here is a Herald summary

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lakes/news/article.cfm?c_id=245&objectid=10419431

    Make no mistake, National are looking to continue and extend this process. Check out Carter’s statements to recent Federated Farmers meetings, and the purring response.

    • George Darroch 5.1

      I’m still extremely fucked off that simply Labour gave away so much of our land to the landed aristocracy.

      And to those wondering why I’m doing all my complaining about Labour now that they’re in opposition? Because they’re the only people who can get us out of this mess.

  6. So Bored 6

    This debacle began under Labour and has gone from bad to worse, basically we are swapping leases for freehold title, giving leaseholders title to the preferential lower land. Much then gets sold off, subdiivided and what was once extensive grazing and pristine scenic territory that we could all enjoy becomes mansions for the wealthy…..have a look at the shores of all the southern lakes and you are confronted by roads, private no camping signs and concrete bunker “architecture”.

    It is a very sad commentary on our leaders lack of respect for the common use of land and their disregard for the despolation of previously scenic gems.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      Yep, it was very badly done by Labour.

    • Gil 6.2

      A few facts because there is a lot of misinformation so far in comments.

      Labour did not start the Tenure Review land reform process as it exists at present. It was started by the National Government in 1998, after lobbying by Fed Farmers and others. The Nats then passed the Crown Pastoral Land Act (CPLA 1998). The Minister of Lands at the time was Denis Marshall.

      High Country Crown leases are NOT in perpetuity. They are PERPETUALLY RENEWABLE leases, usually every 33 years, with a rent review every 11 years (average annual rental 86 cents a hectare until recently as there is now a case before a rent Tribunal at present). People constantly make this error about the exact nature of Crown Pastoral Leases and lessees love them doing it.

      This is because there is a very important legal difference in the two forms of lease outlined above. High country lessees try to discount this difference and claim that their leases are as good as freehold, and therefore why shouldn’t they have the right to buy the lot from the Crown and privatise if they wish.

      However perpetually renewable leases are obviously NOT as good or the same as freehold; conditions can be changed through rent review ,and when the leases are renewed, and there are significant constraints over how they are farmed which is controlled by the 1948 Land Act.

      Lessees want to get rid of all these constraints and cash in the capital value of the land by having the right to buy freehold. At present this is not allowed under the CPLA..

      This whole business has constantly flown under the radar because of apathy/ignorance by the public, most of whom live in the North Island and couldn’t give a stuff, and lack of interest and investigation by the media.

      Of course this what high country lessees and Fed Farmers want and why they hate what was revealed by Dr Ann Brower in her book “Who Owns the High Country?” (2008). Dr Brower has suffered disgraceful abuse and threats from high country lessees ever since she brought the truth to light.

      New Zealanders should wake up about tenure review and what the Government is moving towards right now. I think there is a very real risk that lessees will be offered the chance to buy out all their properties, with some degree of claytons environmental ‘protection’ under convenant of some areas, which will mean very little as no one will monitor it (as usual). The Government is moving right on down this track despite the denials…..

      Then there will be pressure on compliant district councils, often representing farmers’ interests, to change zoning and District Plans to allow speculation and develop land around lake edges. This is already happening around Lake Tekapo where the MacKenzie District Council is proposing so called ‘nodal developments’, which are actually quite large in area and will allow building around the lake edge.

      This process will just continue over the next few years because the economic value in these inflated properties lies in the fact that they are ‘bolt holes’ for the rich and famous like pop singer Shania Twain. But for some New Zealanders they are a part of our heritage and the landscape of our souls.

      But New Zealanders will just let it all happen, as they did in the 1980’s and 90’s, because most of them never bother to read the paper properly if at all, and follow these things up with action. This is a politically ignorant and very conservative country compared to Europe. And they have given the Government a mandate at the last election Totally depressing….

      By the way the High Country covers approximately 20% of the South Island and 10% of New Zealand. Just watch it disappear from our hands!

      • RedLogix 6.2.1

        Gil,

        A fine comment. You seem well informed on this topic, I’m sure Lynn would welcome a full guest posting from you if you would care to put one together.

        The disgraceful sabotaging for Jim Sutton’s Public Access reforms in 2004 was the defining issue that got me polarised and politically aware. I still loath the ACT party for it’s scaremongering role in that debacle.

        In fact the whole issue still makes me so angry I can scarcely write anything coherent about it…

  7. scotty 7

    Farmers should have to compete for high country leases ,to ensure the best possible return for the OWNERS.weed out shonky operators,and ensure access for the OWNERS.Bids from lease holders could include access rights for the OWNERS along with a commercial rate of return,which would be a novelty.Where are the headlines on righty sites about snouts in the trough.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      Actually, there’s a problem with that idea. The land needs to be restored to it’s natural state and not continue as farms. This is to help with restoring bio-diversity.

  8. aj 8

    Where do the Maori Party stand on this.

  9. Mac1 9

    Last year, at an election meeting hosted by Federated Farmers, there was much displeasure voiced at the sale of St James station by some farmers at the meeting and the local National MP, Colin King. He and they both said that the too high price would affect their rating bill.
    They were not happy that a good price could be had for selling land. Rates are based on land values and so long as prices remain in balance, rates stay the same. Rates only vary with either inflation or because some particular type of property inflates in value more or less for some factor such as desirability.
    Perhaps they saw the longer term National plan here- keep the Crown price low in order to keep the post-election 2008 sell-off of high country property at bargain prices.

  10. aj 10

    Rates have no relationship to land price per se.
    Property prices nationwide have deflated by 9% over average but any home owner who thinks they are going to see rates go down are dreaming. Same applies to rural land.
    Rates are a tax and property valuations are merely a tool for apportioning the total tax take.

  11. Mac1 11

    aj, agreed. So why were the farmers and local MP upset at the vendor getting a price which both seller and buyer were happy with? Had they an inkling of what was further down the track, under National, in terms of privatisation of high country land?

  12. Swampy 12

    Which vested interest group does “Alistair” represent?

    When the F&S Act came up for discussion it was the FMC that was out there making the most noise about it, I guess they were cheerleading the steamrollering of farmers’ privacy along with Fish and Game when they all wanted access rights to their farms.

    • Pascal's bookie 12.1

      “When the F&S Act came up for discussion it was the FMC that was out there making the most noise about it..”

      Nah. You’re thinking of Bill English and Nick Smith.

  13. Swampy 13

    Oh look there it is. Hugh Barr secretary of the Outdoor Recreation Associations. “New Zealand’s draconian trespass laws prohibit public access to private land even when covenants are in place,’ he says.

    Did you ever stop to think Hugh Barr that you might be an extremist? I just don’t get what it is with these people, the FMC, Fish and Game and the like making these outrageous attacks on people’s right to privacy. They would sure be making a big fuss if some member of the public trespassed in their own back yard. Keep on ranting because the vast majority of New Zealanders don’t care all that much.

    • RedLogix 13.1

      They would sure be making a big fuss if some member of the public trespassed in their own back yard.

      In most civilised countries people are capable of making a distinction between an urban, domestic backyard of a few hundred square meters, and many thousands of hectares of rural high country that has a grazing lease.

      And yes I care a lot. I had the enormous privilege of spending much of my teens and twenties tramping and climbing in these magical places. The stealth conversion of what were nothing more than grazing leases (that originally permitted the leaseholder exclusive rights to nothing more than the pasture) to freehold title is a massive theft of public assets for the benefit of a handful of wealthy farmers.

      These things go in cycles. There are far more of us who care than greedy, land-thieving farmers. We will eventually get it all back.

    • So Bored 13.2

      Hey Swampy, when you steal something (i.e do things like privatising the public domain by stealth) you cant expect to sit down nice, cosy and private to enjoy the spoils. If I cut off access by public right of way on a paper road to the river or lake etc thereby denying access to a public resource I would expect trouble.

  14. PCE Office 14

    Some information which may assist discussion. Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, released a report into the tenure review process in April this year which examined the issue from an environmental perspective (http://www.pce.parliament.nz).

    The issue of high country tenure is contentious and has some serious aspects affecting all of New Zealand, such as the risk of polluting our iconic high country lakes through intensifying agriculture.

    One of the report’s recommendations is for the establishment of a High Country Commission to examine the policy from a wider perspective, allowing different voices in the spectrum, including those representing science, to chart a way forward.

    Regarding the issue of ownership it is possible for the land to remain owned by the Crown but with changes made to how the leases are set up more ‘middle ways’ rather than the current simple split between privatisation and DoC. I should also like to note that the tenure review process only applies to pastoral leased land and not to national or conservation parks.

    Tenure review has operated, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, under all governments since 1990.

  15. Red Rosa 15

    Hugh Barr an extremist? Gotta be joking. FMC supported the tenure review legislation, under the Shipley government. It looked like a good deal for all concerned.

    Trouble was, the individual lease deals were made by LINZ, not the govt directly, and the $ outcomes kept secret. Meantime, lakeside values went through the roof so when sales such as the Wanaka and Hawea leases to freehold were made public, the proverbial hit the fan.

    Quite right to point out the $40m St James sale as now crucial to the process. There is no way tenure review, or even lease rates under the current Act, can proceed with values like that plugged into the equations.

    Pastoral leases are perpetual grazing rights, reviewable at 11 year intervals, not leases in perpetuity (LIP). Pastoral lease rates are set on land value (LV) not capital value (CV) like most leases, as the leaseholders own the improvements (VI) such as houses, sheds, fencing and tracking.

    Running through a few quick numbers for the sake of argument – assume a station valued at $20m (on the St James sale) with VI $5m leaving LV $15m to make CV $20m. Lease rates are bound under the act at 2% of LV,so annual rental $300k.

    Not a good look. A few years ago that station may have paid $15k annually, about the same as a State house.(!) So all were agreed something had to change with tenure review. And indeed it did, though not quite in the way everyone expected.

    There are few misconceptions around and some are noted above, eg. LIPis quite different to pastoral lease. Also, ‘lease rates’ are quite different to usual local body rates, which the leaseholders also pay.

    will be interesting to see how it goes from here on.

    Incidentally, the UK now has a ‘right to roam’ over farmland. This excludes walkers from the ‘homestead and curtilage’ very sensibly, and seems to be working quite well. exccpt for the farm b

  16. scotty 16

    Id be happy for Ngai Tahu to gain control of all South Island leases immediately.keeping the pink snouts out of the public trough,and ensuring public access in perpetuity .

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