Monday, July 09, 2018

Ripped off

Over the years, the high country tenure review process has privatised hundreds of thousands of hectares of government land. Like all privatisations, the process is corrupt, with farmers getting land for a pittance (or in some cases, being paid by the government to take it) - and then immediately selling it on for nearly a thousand times what they paid for it. The latest abuse? A farmer pocketing nearly $20 million from this corrupt process:

A sprawling lake-front farm in Central Otago has sold for $17.5m - not long after taxpayers paid more than $2m to get rid of it.

It is the latest in a string of farms once owned by the Crown that have been privatised then on-sold for substantial profit.

An academic says it is a "spectacular example" of the extraordinary capital gains made by on-selling valuable lake-front land the Crown privatised. The Government department responsible, however, said its original deal was a fair representation of the land's value, and it had secured access to an important walking trail for the public.

Its just the latest in a long line of privatisations which have enriched farmers while destroying the environment and driving unsustainable dairy intensification in places like the MacKenzie Country. And even if you think that perpetual leases should be privatised, the scale of the rip-off should make you furious. To point out the obvious, those hundreds of millions of dollars farmers have made from this process is money the government could have made instead, if it had valued the land properly (e.g. by taking potential future subdivision and development rights into account, as happens in the urban property market). The enrichment of a small clique of South Island farmers came at the direct expense of our schools and hospitals, and you're paying higher taxes to enable it.

But its also terrible for the environment (again: intensive dairying in the MacKenzie Country). It needs to stop, both for equity and environmental reasons. Apparently there's a review under way, but given the Environment Court ruling, a moratorium while that happens seems to be a good idea.