Government stalls high country rent hearings

Resolving the highly contentious issue of rents for South Island High Country Pastoral Lessees will not happen this season as farmers had hoped according to Federated Farmers High Country chair Donald Aubrey.

“Crown Law, acting on behalf of David Parker, the Minister of Land Information, has decided to bring in outside help in the form of a Queen’s Counsel. A combination of Queen’s Counsel unavailability and that of the tribunal, now means the hearing that was anticipated to start in April, is likely to be delayed until around election time.

Mr Aubrey says is very disappointed that this important hearing has been held off. The hearing in Dunedin in front of the Land Valuation Tribunal is now tentatively set for Monday 13 October 2008.

“The Prime Minister has said that she wants High Country families to be able to continue to farm. However proposed rentals are based on scenery rather than economic viability,” said Mr Aubrey.

“High country farmers have been forced to go to the tribunal in order for their farming business to survive and this is not a position they have chosen. Proposed rentals are based on scenery rather than economic viability. The imposition of rents based on “amenity values” is simply not affordable.

“Delaying the date of the hearing means that if the judge concludes the government is entitled to collect such rents, then they will be payable retrospectively. That means this delay could result in enormous additional costs and make it even more difficult for farmers to pay,” Mr Aubrey said.