The Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill is a ‘solution’ looking for a problem, and is unnecessary, counterproductive and potentially unlawful, Federated Farmers says.
Speaking to the Environment Select Committee today, Feds South Island Policy Manager Kim Reilly said good environmental outcomes and continued sustainable and productive high country farming “can, and do, work in harmony.
“The existing contractual relationship [under the Crown Pastoral Land system] based on trust and reciprocity would be replaced by an approach of regulation, policing and enforcement.
“This diminishes the future constructiveness and openness of relationships. It reduces the certainty of leases and the incentivization to continue to invest in enhanced environmental outcomes, given no accompanying or reciprocal ability to address changing pastoral needs is provided for,” Kim said.
“The bill adds nothing except unnecessary costs, delays, complexity and red tape.”
Instead of duplicating existing district and regional council consent requirements and restrictions, it would be much more sensible to continue to improve resourcing, funding and capability processes for Land Information NZ. With reform of the RMA also on the immediate horizon it makes sense to wait to see what changes that ushers in.
South Island farmer and Federated Farmers High Country member Jim Greenslade said a flaw of the bill – as has become apparent with the Essential Freshwater regulations – is that it’s one-size fits-all approach. Far better to have contractually binding and bespoke Farm Environment Plans that take account of local conditions and particular priorities “while avoiding the need for recurring, complex and costly consent applications”.
High country farmers were very aware of land stewardship responsibilities, in particular so they can pass the Crown lease properties they have worked hard to look after and improve to the next generation. But improving the land, fencing wetlands and managing pest animals and weeds was expensive, Jim said.
The proposed pastoral land reform legislation would undermine that incentive and see money that farmers could spend on that work instead be swallowed by lawyers, consultants and consents.
Federated Farmers also questioned the lawfulness of many of the changes proposed.
“In our view, there are serious questions around the principles of natural justice, and a significant and unjust erosion of the lessee interests and rights,” Kim said.