The High Court has ruled in favour of pastoral lessees’ right to exclusive use of their land.
In his judgement, Justice France said pastoral leases were consistent with a land leasing arrangement. The land leasing arrangement conferred exclusive possession to the farmer.
“The obligations the lessee undertakes would make it surprising if he or she were obtaining only a licence to occupy.”
. . . The Crown maintained control over the land to preserve it environmentally, and any proposed use other than pasturage required Crown consent.
But a clear indication of the relationship between lessor and lessee was that a recreation permit granted by the Crown to a third party required the consent of the lessee of the land.
“The need to obtain a lessee’s consent is, in my view, a very clear indication of the nature of the lessees’ possession.”
This ruling establishes the property rights of lessees and confirms their right to undisturbed occupation .
Fish & Game took the case to the court, contending that because the Crown owned the land it could give other people access to it.
Farmers were furious about the case and the grapevine suggests that the new Minister of Land Information New Zealand was not impressed either. His department administers pastoral leases and was a defendant in the case, which in effect meant it was a statutory body taking a government department to court.
Fish & Game used to be well thought of by farmers for its work augmenting fisheries but that relationship has been strained in recent years as F&G has fought landowners on access issues and shown an unfortunate tendency to challenge property rights.
The expense to farmers of defending the case, which the ODT puts at more than $200,00, will have done nothing to improve matters. If F&G wants to rebuild postive relationships with farmers they should stay out of the courts and put their energies back into improving fisheries.