1 Dec 2008

Review planned of companies' rights over private land

3:43 pm on 1 December 2008

Environment Minister Nick Smith says an upcoming review of the Resource Management Act will also look at how companies win the right to take private land, even in cases where the landowner does not want to sell.

Land from about 100 Canterbury farms would be needed for the proposed $400 million Central Plains irrigation scheme.

A seven-month resource consent hearing has been completed and the company planning the irrigation scheme, Central Plains Water Ltd, is waiting for its decision.

If it goes ahead the company may need to use its Requiring Authority Status to secure land from farm owners who do not want to sell, though it must pay compensation.

That status is most often used by essential service providers, such as power and phone companies, and gives them the ability to apply to take private land under the Public Works Act.

But Central Plains opponents say the project does not offer wide public good and they are critical of the process that gave an irrigation company such power.

Mr Smith says the way Requiring Authority Status is determined will be reviewed under a reassessment of the Resource Management Act.

One Canterbury farmer, who would see his historic family farm flooded if the scheme is granted consent, wants the legal process that allows his land to be taken from him to be changed.

Brian Deans' 165-year-old Canterbury farm has been earmarked for use by the scheme.

Mr Deans said it is unfair that landowners cannot refuse to sell. He said Central Plains Water Ltd is a private company that does not offer the widespread public good that the Public Works Act intended land acquisitions to be for.

Canterbury woman Rosalie Snoyink, who has campaigned against the irrigation scheme, wants the law changed to stop private companies gaining the right to take private land.

Ms Snoyink said the private irrigation scheme does not provide any public good.

The minister who granted Central Plains Water Ltd the right to designate farms for its own use says he still feels uncomfortable about the decision, despite legal advice at the time which said it fit the relevant criteria.

David Benson-Pope says the new Government should reconsider the law that allows such decisions.