Govt tramples property rights


The government is trampling over West Coast farmers’ property rights:

West Coasters whose land has been newly classified as a significant wetland or natural area are unlikely to receive any compensation from the Government, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says.

After a Department of Conservation appeal to the Environment Court in 2012, the West Coast Regional Council was ordered to add a further 215 schedule 2 wetlands to its Soil and Water Plan.

Regional council chairman Allan Birchfield estimates about 5000ha of wetlands on private land are affected, with landowners required to pay for ecological assessments to see if the land qualifies for full protection under schedule 1.

“That’s effectively put the land into the DOC estate because the landowners will need DOC input – and approval as an affected party if they want to develop it. So the Crown is gaining land without paying for it, and that is theft,” he said.

“However, there is support through the sustainable land use package from budget 2019 to support landowners with fencing and riparian planting.”

Support for doing something they have no choice over is not compensation for loss of property rights.

Birchfield said that would be unacceptable to most landowners.

“It’s their land and they don’t want it fenced off. They either want it purchased or possibly a land swap. It’s not the Wild West here, where you just take land off people.”

DOC had plenty of land on the Coast, if it wanted control of the wetlands it should be a willing-seller, willing-buyer situation with no compulsion, he said.

“Those landowners lose the use of the land, but have to go on paying rates on it. DOC doesn’t pay any rates.

Farmers will not only have to pay rates, they’ll also be responsible for weed and pest control on what was their land and will be in name only.

“We’ve got little enough private land here anyway and they should keep their hands off the little we have, to make a living out of.”

The ecological benefits of wetlands are well understood but that doesn’t justify forcing farmers to retire land without compensating them.

This government doesn’t want forestry or mining on the Coast, it’s rejected a hydro generation plan and now it’s effectively taking land from farmers, leaving them with the costs of ownership and none of the benefits.

Property rights are one of the foundation stone of democracy.

Forcing farmers to retire land without compensating them tramples all over those rights.


Angry anglers casting into dangerous waters


Anyone with the appropriate licence can fish most waterways in New Zealand but no-one has ever had the freedom to cross private land without permission to get to fishing spots.

In the past it would have been rare for farmers to refuse permission but anglers are getting upset because a few landowners are now giving exclusive rights to access to commercial guides:

In a growing number of “exclusive capture” deals, mostly in prime backcountry, “large sums” have been paid to landowners for the sole right to fish on their land, the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers says.

Rich foreigners and celebrities . . .  pay thousands of dollars for guided helicopter fishing expeditions on New Zealand’s most prized trout rivers.

This is a legitimate way for farmers to make money and could well mean the difference between profit and loss given poor returns for meat and wool in recent years.

The government, correctly, says landowners have the right to do this although it has asked the Walking Access Commission to negotiate for open access where it’s restricted.

Agriculture Minister David Carter said although there were probably more, he was aware of fewer “than a dozen” places where the deals were in place. He personally felt it was the legitimate property right of an owner to sell exclusive access for fishing.

“… the owner of the property certainly has the ability to restrict access and therefore to maximise the economic potential of a fishing spot to the advantage of that property owner.”

However, he had asked the commission to negotiate more open access, including offering cash enticements to landowners.

Negotiation is the right way to approach this and the offer of payment recognises that landowners would be forgoing an income-earning opportunity.

It’s is a far more reasonable approach than the bluster from the Federation of Freshwater Anglers:

Federation president Jim Hale said parts of rivers in the North Island and South Island had been captured by “unscrupulous commercial interests”.

“It is practised by those who have captured these trout fishing waters for their own financial profiteering, even though the running water and the fish within them do not belong to them.

“We will fight this scourge wherever we find it, with whoever is involved, with all of the determination and resources at our disposal,” Mr Hale said.

Anglers will be casting into very dangerous waters if their actions match this rhetoric. Fighting property rights is usually the preserve of despots; it would be a very sad day for democracy if it succeeded here.

Fishing can be a lucrative tourist venture. Guides and others who supply services to anglers make money from it so it’s not unreasonable for landowners to want something too.

Negotiation and compensation are the weapons the anglers should be use if they’re unhappy about that, not confrontation.

Draft walking access and out door codes released


The Walking Access Commission is calling for submissions on its the Draft National Strategy on Walking Access and the Draft New Zealand Outdoor Access Code which were launched by Agriculture Minister David Carter this week.

Both accept that private property is private property to which private property rights apply:

The Commission accepts fully that it is the prerogative of landholders to refuse access to their land, even if such access may have been traditional and the request seems to be reasonable, for example, to gain access to a river for fishing or a national park.

Landholders have the right to charge for any facilities or services on their property in association with the provision of access. They also have the right to recover any costs incurred in providing access.

Some people don’t understand the property rights which apply to a small section in town apply to large properties in the country.

The Commission does and is not seeking a right to roam. It’s taking a common sense approach, aiming to negotiate with landowners where appropriate to allow access to walking tracks, waterways or beaches.



Foreshore and seabed about property rights


Michael Cullen has done a mea culpa and admitted Labour got the Foreshore and Seabed Act  wrong.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris FInlayson has responded graciously with an acknowledgement on the importance of a non-partisan approach:

“I agree completely with Dr Cullen’s sentiment that the review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act needs to be approached in a non-partisan way, and that the issue should not be used as a political football.

“I welcome his assurance that the Labour Party will engage constructively with the review. Our goal is to reach the best possible outcome for Maori and all the people of New Zealand, and it is important that the voices of all parties in Parliament are heard.”

I am pleased he’s done that because it’s the right thing to do and because National didn’t get its stance on the issue right either.

The issue is one of property rights and the case should have been  heard in court. If the result found in the Maori’s favour it wouldn’t have meant anyone was barred from beaches, but it would have meant the legal owners would have been owed compensation for any compromise of or interference with their property rights.

This is an issue farmers ought to have a lot of sympathy for because similar principles are involved in access to and through farmland.

Property rights 1 government 0


The High Court decision against the Crown’s attempt to transfer land occupied under pastoral lease to the Department of Conservation is a victory for farmers and property rights.

High Court judgement has ruled against the Crown for reneging on a deal to offer a special lease to a group of high country farmers.

In 2003 the Commissioner of Crown Lands (CCL) decided to grant a special lease on the expiry of a pastoral occupation licence to the group, known as the Soldiers’ Syndicate.

In 2005 the CCL changed his mind and decided to designate the land, comprising 4,400 hectares in the Hawkdun and Ida ranges near Ranfurly in Otago, as a conservation area. The syndicate appealed to the High Court and was vindicated by the decision released yesterday (30 October).

High Country Accord Chairman Ben Todhunter said:

“This is one of three court cases where high country farming families are defending their legal rights against the Crown, or Crown entities.

“Basically, you have a government determined to convert tussock grasslands that have been grazed by farmers for generations into high country parks and reserves. Because the government hasn’t been able to achieve this on the scale it wants through good faith bargaining, ministers and the agencies that report to them, have been abusing legal processes.”

The second case, challenging the government’s decision to charge farmers for amenity values, is being held in Dunedin. The ODT reports on it here, here and here.

The third case is a challenge to property rights by Fish & Game which contends that pastoral leases do not allow farmers to restrict access to their land.

Property rights sacrosanct


The ODT editorlialises on the Walking Access Bill and concludes:

There will be regret in several quarters that private property rights have been protected seemingly to a greater degree than the public’s rights of access, and that this Bill amounts to a concession that the original admittedly ambitious proposals were simply too difficult to reconcile with the level of objection.

The pity would have been had property rights not been protected because they are one of the basic planks of democracy.

No-one has the right wander on to someone else’s quarter acre section and use it for a picnic, exercise, walking dogs, hunting, having sex, or as a loo. 

I know people who have come across uninvited visitors doing all of these things. The reasons that make that unacceptable in a city section apply just as much in the country and regardless of how much bigger the property is.

Private Property rights go back to the Magna Carta and if the land owner has to give them away it must be by negotiation and, if appropriate, with compensation.

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