14 May 2009

High Country rights upheld by High Court

12:29 pm on 14 May 2009

A High Court ruling that High Country farmers have exclusive access possession of land leased from the Crown, has been welcomed by Federated Farmers.

The Fish & Game Council had sought a judgment which would grant the public access rights to the land, as long as they did not interfere with grazing.

Federated Farmers says the ruling is unequivocal.

In his judgement, Justice Simon France said the leases grant High Country farmers exclusive possession of the land they lease from the Crown.

The judgement also said farmers have exclusive ability to limit who uses it.

Justice France found there was no evidence that in granting the leases, the Crown retained the right to authorise public access without a farmer's agreement.

He found that the requirements on farmers to seek permission for activities other than farming, are not as strong as the requirement for the Crown to consult farmers on the land's use by any third party.

Perpetual pastoral leases cover 2.17 million hectares of High Country land in the South Island.

Fish & Game says it was seeking clarification of the Walking Access Bill and it may still appeal.

High Country Accord chair Jonathan Wallis questions whether Fish & Game's stance on the issue is common among all its members.