23 Jul 2018

Peters on row over US TV personality's land: 'We do not envisage sales like this'

7:13 pm on 23 July 2018

The acting Prime Minister has weighed into the debate on access to the Hāwea Conservation Park, saying the National Party has to front questions about how the sale was able to proceed.

Winston Peters

"We do not envisage sales like this going on in the future," Winston Peters said. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"What on earth was the National Party doing in April last year allowing that sort of sale in the way they did," Winston Peters told RNZ today.

Mr Peter's statement came in reaction to news that a compensation stoush could be brewing between the government and Hunter Valley Station's multimillionaire American lessee Matt Lauer.

Mr Lauer, the former co-host of NBC's Today show who was dismissed from the role after sexual harassment accusations surfaced, purchased the lease in March last year with the approval of the Overseas Investment Office.

Matt Lauer.

Matt Lauer Photo: AFP

The Walking Access Commission and the Department of Conservation are seeking an easement through Hunter Valley Station, which is the gateway to the Hāwea Conservation Park, to allow restricted vehicle access to a 40 kilometre road which connects to the conservation park and public roads.

Mr Peters said such a deal would not fly with the current government.

"The reality is they [National] were selling it off to anyone offshore who had enough money to buy it ... in a way that they never should have been and which we will not allow now," he said.

"We do not envisage sales like this going on in the future ... I do not envisage selling out this country like the last government did."

It was unclear, if the easement was granted, whether Mr Lauer would be entitled to compensation and it was not in the purview or control of the government, Mr Peters said.

But Mr Lauer's lawyer, the Queenstown-based principal of Walker & Todd Law Graeme Todd, said there had been no issues with access and there was no need for such an easement.

Public access through the station was one of the stipulations of the Overseas Investment Office's approval of the sale, he said.

"The public have exercised such access on numerous occasions since we have purchased," Mr Todd said.

"There have just been a few occasions where the access wasn't able to be granted and nobody has raised any concerns that such denial was unreasonable."

It totalled three or four occasions out of more than 100, and was due to farming activities - such as lambing - or due to safety, he said.

Mr Lauer and his tenants were opposed to the easement, he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Conservation said it had not received any complaints about access to the station during the past 18 months.

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