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.