Otago Fish & Game not confident either

03/11/2009

Otago Fish and Game council has told the national body it lacks confidence in its chief executive.

Areas of concern included a water campaign which failed to proceed in 2006, a lack of agreement over themes for pre-election advocacy, and the “divisive and costly” judicial review on high country pastoral leases taken without consultation with regional fish and game councils.

This action follows a similar move  by Central South Island Fish & Game which was made public last week.

That judicial review was not only divisive and costly for Fish & Game it was very costly for pastoral lessees and the public.

Fish & Game is funded by fishing and hunting licences. It’s a public entity, established by statute and answerable to the Minister of Conservation.

It should have stuck to maintaining and enhancing recreational fishing and hunting, not taking the Crown and pastoral lessees to court.


Fish & Game internal ructions

27/10/2009

Fish & Game’s challenge attempt to establish a right to roam on pastoral lease land was an expensive business for pastoral lessees and the Crown who were defendants.

It was also costly for the organisation and not just in financial terms. It has caused serious internal ructions.

The Timaru Herald reports that Central South Island Fish & Game has passed a vote of no confidence in the organisation’s national chief executive, Bryce Johnson.

Fish & Game is funded from fishing and hunting licences. Many pastoral lessees hold licences are were livid that they were paying for the court action three times – through their licence fees for the body taking the action and both as taxpayers and lessees for the defence.  

Anecdotal evidence from people hunting and fishing on their land supported lessees’ contention that Fish & Game didn’t have whole hearted support of its members for the action. This vote of no confidence supports the anecdotes.


High Court backs property rights for pastoral lesees

14/05/2009

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.


Farming and conservation not mutually exculsive

07/04/2009

High Country farming and conservation aren’t mutually exclusive a report into enivronmental stewardship and tenure review  by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright.

The report  recommends that a High Country Commission be established to provide oversight and strategic direction and it questions the ongoing expansion of the DOC estate.

The only high level strategy for the high country is DoC’s plan for the creation of 22 high country parks. Yet much of the land going into those parks has no special biodiversity value, and comparatively few people will be hardy enough to use them for recreation. With the addition of each park must come the need for significant ongoing Crown expenditure on pest and weed control, access roads, fences, tracks and huts. It is hard to see how this strategy yields the best national value for the conservation dollar.

Farmers and local bodies have been saying this for some time but went unheard because the previous government failed to recognise that farmers had been and could continue to be stewards of high country land and that farming and conservation aren’t mutually exclusive.

Labour’s antipathy to private property rights drove the purchase of large tracts of South Island high country which few if any members of the public will ever see and has left taxpayers with an on-going bill for weed and pest control, repairs and maintenance.

Public funding for conservation will always be limited. Other models that sit between the extremes of unfettered private ownership and management on the one hand and pure DOC ownership and management on the other should be used more widely. Covenants and possibly performance-based fi nancial incentives as well as local authority rules can all be used to support farmers and other owners in the stewardship role many already play.

The previous government gave a directive that leasehold land couldn’t be protected with QEII National Trust covenents, preferring to buy land back from pastoral lessees, saddle DOC with its management and the public with the bill.

Land purchase and fencing alone has already cost the public $120 million.

Agriculture Minsiter David Carter has welcomed the report and says it:

. . . recognises that farmers already play a ‘stewardship’ role, a role which lessees have long argued and which has been overlooked.” 

Mr Carter says that high country runholders can be just as effective stewards as the Crown. 

“We also support the questioning by the Commissioner of the ongoing expansion of the DOC estate. 

“The Government has made it clear that it supports the principle of tenure review, but believes a new approach is needed to restore confidence in the process.  Voluntary, good faith negotiations between lessees and the Crown are at the heart of this.   

This is a welcome change from the anti-farmer view which the previous government subscribed to and should see better economic and environmental outcomes.


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