2 Sep 2008

Farmers' hold on high country policy diminished - academic

6:51 am on 2 September 2008

An academic who has stirred debate over pastoral lease rights says farmer domination of high country land policy in the South Island is on the wane.

Dr Ann Brower, a lecturer in political science at Lincoln University, came to New Zealand on a Fulbright scholarship to examine the system.

Her study claimed the Government was giving away the public ownership of leasehold land through tenure review, in which high country run-holders have been freeholding parts of their land in exchange for other parts being taken over as conservation estate.

She says run-holders had the view that by investing blood, sweat and tears in leasehold land, they earned the right to own it.

She says the farmer's power over Government policy has diminished in the past two years as the Government has raised pastoral rents, and started applying "public interest" considerations to tenure review deals.

Dr Brower says the public's property rights have been re-asserted - but at a high cost, with $27 million paid for land to date. However, she says about a quarter of that land has since sold for $122 million.

Dr Brower has written a book called Who Owns the High Country, which will be launched on Tuesday night.

Although the book is about the high country she says it is really a story about politics.

Not so - High Country Accord

High Country Accord says Dr Brower's views should be taken with a pinch of salt.

High country farmers' representative Ben Todhunter says her views on the legal status of high country farms with perpetual leases from the Crown, have been challenged and discredited by a number of authorities.