2 Aug 2009

Law change expected after High Country ruling

12:24 pm on 2 August 2009

A High Country farmer who won a significant test case against the Crown says his victory opens the door for a change in legislation.

Jonathan Wallis of Minaret Station opposed increases in rent for High Country leases after a Government review included amenity values in calculating the rents.

Amenity values take into consideration the value derived from the location or view the property has.

Many High Country farmers believe amenity values are irrelevant and unfairly inflate the cost to them of leasing the land.

Mr Wallis, who is also the chairman of the High Country Accord, says while the Crown is within its rights to protest against the decision, he hopes it will accept it.

"I don't think the way forward is to fight, it's definitely to look towards rational, amicable decisions that are genuinely in the national interest.

"But at the same time I think we have to take from this that property rights have to be respected and government can'ts walk on people ... to get what they want."

Mr Wallis says the relationship between high country farmers and the Government can continue to be restored.

He won the case at the Land Valuation Tribunal in Dunedin and says the case sets a precedent for hundreds of other high country land valuation cases waiting to go before court.

Earlier win for High Country Accord

Mr Wallis is also the chairman of the High Country Accord, which represents some of the South Island's 230 pastoral leaseholders.

Most of them opposed an attempt earlier this year to allow public access to the land they lease from the Crown.

Fish & Game went to court in March seeking to show the public had the right to access Crown-owned land run by farmers on a pastoral lease.

But the court ruled that leasehold farmers have exclusive possession of the land and the ability to restrict who uses it.