Colin MacDonald's Speech to Federated Farmers High Country Field Day
LINZ CE Colin MacDonald was invited to speak at the Federated Farmers High Country Field Day held on 10 March 2010. A summary of Colin’s speech is below.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, and for inviting me and other members of the LINZ team to be part of this field day.
As you’ve heard from Minister Carter, the management of the high country is a priority for the Government. The Minister also mentioned the Government’s new strategic direction for Crown pastoral land, which was approved mid-last year.
Today, I’d like to talk about what this has meant operationally for LINZ, and what we will be doing to achieve the outcomes of the strategic direction. I’d also like to provide an update about some important pieces of work currently underway.
Firstly though, I’d like to acknowledge the input and support of the high country community, including high country farmers, Federated Farmers and the High Country Accord. I’ve seen the relationship between LINZ and the high country community strengthen, and this has been due to the proactive approach taken by all parties. The important thing for me is that we keep the communications channels open and continue to build and strengthen these relationships.
So, what has the Government’s strategic direction meant for LINZ?
The Crown has been a long term owner of the land, and will continue to be. And pastoral leases will continue to be an important way of achieving social and economic gains for New Zealanders.
The Government’s strategic direction for Crown pastoral land has three objectives. These focus on further strengthening the relationships between the Crown and lessees, promoting effective stewardship of landscapes and lakesides through sustainable land management, and promoting the contribution of pastoral land to New Zealand’s economy.
Tenure review is a very important contributor to these objectives. For LINZ, the strategic direction has meant looking at the way we administer tenure review. In other words, we’re asking ourselves will the current model fit with the objectives of the strategic direction and what is the long term future for tenure review? While it is very early days, this is a priority piece of work for us.
LINZ also needs to be mindful of a number of other factors when looking at the way we administer tenure review. In particular, the fiscal environment is a harsh reality. We need to look at ways to deliver the outcomes of tenure review, as guided by the Crown Pastoral Land Act, and the Government’s strategic direction within those fiscal constraints.
I think there is also a challenge in determining options available to the Crown for how LINZ, and other government departments, manages land not freeholded through tenure review.
One way of achieving the strategic direction, in particular stewardship of lakesides and landscapes is increasing the use of covenants.
Greater use of covenants remains a high priority for LINZ as an important way of protecting the lakesides and landscapes. Carefully crafted covenants can provide legally binding protection for a wide range of significant inherent values in the high country. These include QEII covenants administered by the QEII Trust, sustainable management covenants administered by LINZ or regional councils, and conservation covenants under the Reserves Act. Covenants also accommodate public access where appropriate.
As you well know, farming and conservation can be complementary.
And, LINZ has recently developed sustainable land management covenants that can be used in tenure review. These focus on rehabilitating degraded lands suffering from soil erosion and loss of vegetation cover.
A key piece of work LINZ is working on at the moment is developing the Government’s policy of charging rent on the basis of the earning capacity of properties.
The fundamental basis of a pastoral lease is that the Crown provides a platform for development, and lessees own the value of any improvements.
So, the intention is to create a system that reflects the proportionate interests of the Crown and lessees in the land as closely as possible.
LINZ is taking a number of factors into account to determine how rentals should be determined. These include how much stock each property can hold with and without improvements to the land, and current market rentals per stock unit.
The proposed formula for calculating rent will be presented to Ministers for their approval in the coming months.
I’d personally like to thank members of the High Country Accord and the sub-committee for their considerable input to date. In particular, I’d like to thank Jonathan Wallace, Chair of the Accord and the sub-committee for his support; not only for this work, but also for the support he’s given to LINZ to date.
Once a policy is approved by Ministers, the challenge for LINZ, working with lessees, will be putting the policy into practice.
Educating the public
As you’ll be aware, there’s been considerable interest in the high country in the media over the last few months. Educating the public is very important, as the management of pastoral leases, tenure review, and the Crown’s role in administering pastoral land often deals with complex issues. Also, any debate or coverage of matters about pastoral land and the South Island high country can trigger a number of emotions.
Last Thursday, Brian Usherwood, General Manager Crown Property and Investment at LINZ released an opinion piece outlining lessees' property rights, tenure review - including benefits to the public - and land use. The aim of this is to help educate the public and inform some of the debate.
So far, I believe The Press and Timaru Herald newspapers have published Brian’s opinion piece, and we expect more to follow.
I see LINZ continuing to be proactive when it comes to communicating with the high country community and the public, especially when new policy is being introduced.
Equally important is hearing from the high country community about concerns, issues or when things are going well. It’s this type of two-way dialogue that enables LINZ and others to continue to appreciate and understand some of the issues affecting the high country, and to streamline our approaches where appropriate.
Events like these field days are an important part of that two-way dialogue and I would encourage you to have a chat with the LINZ people here today – Brian Usherwood, Mathew Clark, David Gullen and myself.
Thank you all again for inviting me along.