2 Nov 2008

Otago farmers relieved at High Court decision

9:54 pm on 2 November 2008

A High Court ruling has brought huge relief to a group of high country farmers in Otago who have been facing the prospect of losing their summer grazing land.

The three farming families involved are members of the Soldiers Syndicate, which for 90 years has grazed a 4,500 hectare block of Crown land in the Hawdun and Ida Ranges, in the Maniototo district.

They went to court after the Department of Land Information, LINZ, reviewed their pastoral occupation lease and decided to take the land out of grazing and hand it over to the Department of Conservation.

The syndicate argued that that reneged on an earlier decision to grant them a special lease to allow them to continue using the land.

A Syndicate member, Phil Smith, says the High Court has agreed with their view that the earlier decision was a statutory one.

He says they will now get seven year periods of grazing which will be subject to monitoring.

Mr Smith says under LINZ's revised proposal the grazing right was to end in five years.

He says losing access to the summer grazing block would be devastating for the three farming families.

Mr Smith says the High Court decision has come at a huge financial and emotional cost, but if LINZ appeals he says the syndicate will stand up again.

LINZ meanwhile, isn't commenting until it's considered the High Court decision.