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Legalized Theft?




Elderly man to lose 70 per cent of farm in ‘blatant attack’ on property rights

An elderly West Coast man has appealed to the Government not to take his land after more than 70 per cent of it was classed as a significant natural area (SNA).

Tony Barrett, 86, lives alone on his 607-hectare block on Arnold Valley Rd, east of Greymouth.

Barret’s grandparents first leased the land near Notown from the government in the 1930s after it was cleared of trees, dug over and mined for gold by returned servicemen.

The Barretts left much of it undeveloped, and a large chunk of the formerly gorse-covered block is now regenerating native bush.

Under the new biodiversity rules, he and subsequent owners would need resource consent with Department of Conservation (DOC) approval to fell trees, run stock, convert to dairy and possibly to pick moss.

In his submission on the Government’s draft National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB), Tony Barrett said the SNA designation effectively took most of his farm away from him.

“As an elderly New Zealander that has worked hard all my life, paid my taxes diligently and in general tried to contribute positively to society, I am saddened whilst in the sunset stage of my life to have to deal with this blatant attack on my property rights.”

Barret said because of the land-use restrictions to be placed on SNAs he was faced with the strong likelihood that his land would be virtually worthless.

“Who is going to pay market value on land when only 30 per cent is available to be productively used? Any coast estate agents will confirm that rural land with stands of trees, and creeks on it command lower buyer interest because of the realities of the [Resource Management Act] and now this National Policy Statement. “

While he had no interest in selling his land, Barrett asked if the Government’s actions were morally defensible.

“This is our family farm and as such it holds particular value and meaning to me. I object to being told by faceless people that I am not allowed to manage my farm responsibly as I and those before me have done.”

Greymouth deputy mayor Allan Gibson, who has known Barrett since he trapped possums on his land 40 years ago, helped Barrett write his submission.

“He’s pretty shattered. This whole SNA thing has ruined what bit of life he has left,” Gibson said.

The family had never farmed the land intensively, but had kept a few animals, and milled some trees over the years, while Barrett, who turned 86 last week, still picked a bit of sphagnum moss.

“He’s been a hard-working man all his life; he’s the last of three generations who’ve looked after the place and now they tell him what to do with his own land … I think that’s communism.”

The Grey District Council had gone through the process of identifying SNA’s 20 years ago, with DOC and an ecologist, Gibson said.

Barrett, who is a very private man, had not allowed officials onto his land to inspect it, and the SNA designation had been the result of a desktop exercise.

“Some years ago the Barretts were offered the adjoining Crown block for nothing, by the government but the family turned it down because they had enough to look after.

“That block’s now been converted to dairy but they want to ‘protect’ Tony’s, when 84 per cent of the coast is already in the DOC estate. It’s nuts.”

From the council’s point of view, the SNA process would lower the district’s rate take, Gibson said.

“You can’t do much with the [SNA] land so the value drops and the owners pay less in rates, and other ratepayers pick up the burden. This will mean the end of land development on the Coast.”

Submissions on the NPSIB close on March 14 and councils must give effect to it in their plans within five years.

West Coast mayors and chairs will discuss the impact on the region at their quarterly forum on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the West Coast Regional Council will decide whether to sign off on its final list of scheduled wetlands on Thursday after a multimillion-dollar process that took 15 years, and involved mediation and multiple appeals to the Environment Court.


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  1. “You can’t do much with the [SNA] land so the value drops and the owners pay less in rates, and other ratepayers pick up the burden.

    First they come for this guy, and others that they considered had significant natural areas.[SNA]
    Then they will come for you, at first to pay even more rates.

    Now what is your property worth? where an insatiable demand for more & more rates will be demanded, with menaces, every year?
    You might be lucky to supposedly keep the capital value of improvements, but be sure, there will be costs there, like compliance levies, fees, licences, permits, etc..

    It is the dream of many to have all governments, local & national; to demand much land taxes, to the value of what one would pay in bank interest.
    That way all the good to have social projects can happen, for the sustainability, vibrancy, diversity & good of the community. 🙁

    This demand will keep flowing on, as how & where else is a university graduate to gain a living. commensurate with university degrees.



  2. ….” a large chunk of the formerly gorse-covered block is now regenerating native bush.”……

    This is the part that’s getting out of hand. Let the manuka & kanuka get over 3 metres in height & it’s no longer classed as scrub. You need consent to spray it & return it to pasture.

    If the Crown want to control the land let them buy it at current market rates.



  3. In some parts of the country, a SNA designation may assist retention of a remnant of what was there prior to land clearance perhaps, as in this case, three generations back. Not so sure about the reasonableness of that on the West coast where there is in my understanding representative areas already included in the protected land network. The specific and unique factors applying to this piece of land, if there are any, are not described in the report.

    I’ll agree that compensation, or a very reasonable and working understanding needs to be amicably reached with the landowner before any restrictive and thus value reducing designation is applied. Rates relief for opportunity forgone should be automatic alongside any restrictive designation. The Council needs to be aware of and be prepared to bear the costs of a restrictive designation before enacting one.



  4. There are a few that get surprised when they buy land with a QEII designation too. If the Crown land, now in dairy, sold within that 20 years how rude is that? Imagine the outcry if it was undeveloped Maori land.



  5. The Hutt City Council tried this a couple of years ago. They took aerial photos of the city and set a group of ‘researchers’ to draw boundaries around areas of vegetation that – to them – looked like original (or at least important) bush. I had a big chunk of my place – in a Western Hills suburb – caught within one such area. Trouble was, I had photos of the hillside from the 1970s which showed it was all scrub and pasture. Most of the ‘native’ vegetation had been planted by me and my neighbours over the intervening years. There was also a lot of fuss generated by the people of Eastbourne who complained that the proposed SNAs would mean they could do nothing on their sections. The worst aspect of the exercise was that it was effectively only a ‘desktop’ study. While a lot of the proposed SNAs covered reserves, nobody came and looked at the areas involving private property to confirm they met the selection criteria. The people of the Hut were so enraged, the then-Mayor decided to cancel the proposed designations.
    I gather though that councils have a legal obligation to identify and protect ‘significant natural areas’, so no doubt there will be further battles in the future. I think I read that someone like Greenpeace or Forest & Bird intends challenging the Hutt City Council for failing to comply with the law by not designating SNAs.



    • These Council shenanigans will become commonplace in our Country because our politicians are ALL gutless cowards that only stand for what makes them look good, never for what is right.
      Because of the shitbags we have running our country a slow grinding path down the slippery slope into socialism is all can be certain about ,that and death and taxes.



  6. “Barret’s grandparents first leased the land near Notown from the government in the 1930s after it was cleared of trees, dug over and mined for gold by returned servicemen.”

    The article does not mention when the Barret family ”first” bought the land from the government. Is it still Crown leased land? (I had an uncle who had a farm subject to a 99 year lease.) May be another media piece that does not report all the facts.



    • Thats what I thought Toko. I didnt see anywhere in the story that they purchased the land. So Im assumming it is still leasehold. If that is the case I dont see what the fuss is about. Mr Barret doesnt have a leg to stand on, unfortunately.



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