The ex-Minister of Lands David Parker is urging the Crown to appeal the Otago District Land Value Tribunal’s decision that amenity values shouldn’t be taken into account when setting rents for pastoral leases.
He said last week’s Otago District Land Valuation Tribunal ruling meant the rent-setting methodology created a large discount to what he considered was proper rent, and would increase land prices to the point where only wealthy overseas investors could afford to buy the land.
He was the one behind the inclusion of amenity values in pastoral rents. The subsequent legal battle ahs already cost the taxpayer and pastoral lessees hundreds of thousands of dollars and the ruling makes it quite clear he was wrong.
He didn’t understand the issue when he was a minister and still doesn’t.
Rent for pastoral leases is based on land exclusive of improvements and leases tightly proscribe what leaseholders can do with the land. Regardless of the beauty of the surroundings, pastoral leases are for pastoral farming. Meat, wool and leather don’t earn a premium because the sheep and cattle from which they came enjoyed the view while they were grazing.
Fortunately Parker’s no longer in government and the people who are have a much better grasp on the issue.
Agriculture Minister David Carter told the ODT he expects pastoral lessees to welcome the new policy for the high country which is to be released soon.
Asked about last Friday’s land valuation tribunal ruling on rent-setting methodology, which found in favour of pastoral lessees, Mr Carter said it was a victory for farmers. High-country farmers had a role in managing the “difficult and fragile environment, in many cases better than some Wellington-based bureaucrat,” he said.
High Country Accord chair and Minaret Station owner, Jonathon Wallis said in a newsletter to accord members:
As a result of the decision, the rent on Minaret Station will increase by 400 per cent from the previous rental set 11 years before, but this a sixth of the rent proposed by the Crown.
“For many farmers, the rent sought by the Crown exceeded the gross income from the farm. There is nothing rational in that,” states Mr. Wallis.
He says the persistent attacks and treatment of high country farmers by the previous government were cynically motivated.
“The tribunal reflects this in its criticism of the previous government for choosing ‘to direct and demand of its valuers a process that is intended to achieve a particular outcome’.”
This issue has caused a lot of anxiety for farmers, some of whom had been farming the land for generations. Had amenity values been taken into account when assessing rents pastoral farming would no longer have been viable on many properties.
That may well have been the ultimate aim of the previous administration which failed to understand the role pastoral farming has played in the conservation of the high country.
David Carter has made it clear the current administration has a much better understanding of the issue and while it is up to LINZ to appeal the decision or not, it is obvious the government would not be in favour of wasting any more money on this exercise in futility.