In my opinion Labour harbours a deep-seated jealousy toward New Zealand’s farmers. This has been borne out by statements made in the heat of debate when defences come down; statements referring to farmers as ‘filthy rich millionaires that will be dealt to’ are inaccurate and repugnant.
Over the nine years of the previous Labour government there was a concerted campaign to run farmers off the land. The high country tenure review was effectively stalled by a demand that the Department of Conservation become obstructive – the result was a pastoral land grab for the Department of Conservation estate.
When this move also failed to rid the countryside of those pesky farmers Labour raised the rent by an extortionate amount. Some of the proposed rents were likely to exceed the gross income of the farm property.
Labour went on to spend recklessly without any recognition of the true market value of the land – buying up properties like St James Station – their offers skyrocketed until farmers simply couldn’t refuse. Labour actually pushed land values up.
We now live in more equitable times and I am relieved to see that The Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading. It will bring resolution to a difficult issue for our high country farming families and respects their property rights.
113 properties have gone before the Land Valuation Tribunal to renegotiate more affordable rents. At this rate is easy to conclude that over half all pastoral leases will be in dispute by the time this new bill comes into force. For this reason an ‘opt-in’ provision will allow lessees currently disputing rental valuations to have their rent set by the new system. The existing system encourages disputes and the decision in the Minaret Station case made it clear that changes needed to be made.
Once this Bill is passed, lease rent will be set against a property’s potential to earn money. This is in sharp contrast to the amenity values foisted upon farmers which have distorted land values and made farming impossible due to potential rent rises. While some properties do have stunning vistas, many do not – something borne out by the cases before the land tribunal.
Farmers can now look forward to a transparent settlement that is easy to administrate and provides a fair rent that leaves money in farmers’ pockets to look after matters including pest and weed control.
Tragically Labour’s David Parker argued that the Amendment Bill is giving absolutely unjustified rent reductions to millionaires. He claimed that just about every one of our high country farmers was a millionaire. The New Zealanders who farm our high country would no doubt have something to say about that. The asset may be worth a great deal of money but National understands that land tenure does not necessarily equate to money in the bank.
As the new parliamentary year gets underway it is clear that Labour is still intent on taking from anyone who works hard and manages to amass money or assets. They do not like self-starters who work on their own behalf and are free of union influence.
Labour is also firmly focused on clawing back any gains made in the primary sector – they fail to understand that New Zealand is in a pre-eminent position to help feed the world in a sustainable way and make good money in the process. Recent comments on Labour’s focus are reminiscent of that party’s failed ‘technology wave’ talk of the 1990s.
There needs to be a partnership between farmers and government – such a partnership will encourage confidence with the banks and stock firms – the farms will be seen as sustainable and farmers will have a fair chance to get on and make a living. Most New Zealanders want intergenerational farming families working the high country as it is part of our heritage. So let’s allow them to do the job with some certainty – the Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill will enable this to happen.