Farm leaders go gunning for the Johnson mob

Great news in the ODT today.

Farm leaders are gunning for Bryce Johnson and his mob, questioning whether public funds have been misappropriated by New Zealand Fish and Game and calling for a review of the organisation’s powers.

Their demands follow the High Court’s finding in favour of pastoral lessees and against Fish and Game, the rods and guns outfit which sought a declaratory judgement on whether lessees have exclusive possession and to grant the public greater access to leasehold land.

The right to exclusive possession hadn’t been questioned in the past, because it was the clear intent of the government to grant it when the leases were created.

Federated Farmers is among those now insisting the Government look at the legislative privilege that enables Fish and Game to fund such “frivolous litigation.”

The ODT reports:

There have been calls for the Government to review Fish and Game’s powers, accusations of a waste of money and calls for the head of its chief executive, Bryce Johnson.

High Country Accord chairman Jonathan Wallis said Fish and Game was a public entity established under the Conservation Act, but ignored Crown Law Office advice by taking action against the Commissioner of Crown Land and farmers.

“Was this a misappropriation of public funds?” he asked.

Federated Farmers said the failed court case should encourage the Government to look at Fish and Game’s powers.

“Fish and Game chief executive Bryce Johnson now needs to take a long hard long look at his and his council’s decision to waste a vast amount of licence fee money on this challenge,” the federation’s high country chairman, Donald Aubrey, said.

Alf agrees with Wallis that this was an inappropriate use of licence fee money, and that the money squandered on funding the court action could have been spent more wisely.

“Certainly, the precious funds generated from Fish and Game licence fees used to prosecute the case would have been much better used to protect and establish habitat for our fish and game.

“And the taxpayer funds used to defend the Crown’s position could also have been much better used in these trying times.”

Defending the case is reported to have cost farmers more than $200,000, for which they would seek costs.

Fish and Game chief executive Bryce Johnson would not reveal how much the case cost his organisation. No decision has been made on an appeal.

For the record,

Mr Johnson described the attacks on him and the case as “nonsense”, saying he was acting in his legal role of protecting habitat for fish and game and fostering public access.

Fish and game were a public resource and were not tied to land title, and he was acting in the interest of licence holders in lobbying for fair and reasonable access.

“I think they [farmers] need to get off their high horse . . . and think about the status of the land that they occupy.”

But Alf is delighted to see his mate David Carter, our hard-working Minister of Agriculture, has picked up the vibes from the cockies.

A media statement fom his office says:

Agriculture Minister David Carter says the High Court’s quashing of legal action by the New Zealand Fish and Game Council to gain public access to high country land, raises questions about the Council’s direction and leadership.

“I seriously question the use of hunting and fishing licensing fees in taking this action, and I will be discussing this further with the Minister of Conservation.

“I am concerned this divisive action was taken when there was no foundation for Fish and Game’s claim for greater public access to high country stations.”

David pointed out that a pastoral lease gives the runholder the right to say who has access to their leasehold land. This is no different from private property owners.

“The fundamental duty of Fish and Game is to advocate for hunters and fishers, and to help enhance their relationship with rural landowners.

“This case has instead undoubtedly been a costly exercise, not only for Fish and Game members, but also for high country farmers. This action has been anything but a relationship-builder.”

Federated Farmers is saying the court challenge was a failed attempt to by-pass all the work associated with walking access, and is a spiteful and damaging waste of the fishing and hunting license fee money.

Both Federated Farmers and the High Country Accord played an instrumental role in the formation and development of the Walking Access Commission, the statement from Donald Aubrey points out.

“We have contributed positively to the development of rules for public access that give pastoral leaseholders and their families security and certainty. Meanwhile, Fish & Game’s Executive has sadly played nothing but a negative and destructive role.

“The High Court’s decision affirms the right of leaseholders to have consent over what people do on pastoral leasehold land.

“High Country pastoral leases impose strict conditions on us as farmers. The judgment acknowledges that leaseholders are responsible for much more than just grass.

“It’s only right that farmers have the ability to control and manage access to such land. This decision enables pastoral leaseholders to operate a business and maintain authority over their property rights contained in their leases.

“The High Court’s judgement also recognises that pastoral leaseholders perform a stewardship role. In other words, we farm with the High Country and not against it. That stewardship role was also recognised recently by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Jan Wright.

“Fish & Game chief executive, Bryce Johnston, now needs to take a long hard long look at his and his Council’s decision to waste a vast amount of license fee money on this challenge.”

Federated Farmers encourages and supports the awarding of costs by the High Court to the High Country Accord.

As to the high country farmers and their families, they await the decision of The Land Valuation Tribunal with regard to the formula used by the Crown to set their rents.”

Alf wishes them well.

One Response to Farm leaders go gunning for the Johnson mob

  1. […] Alf Grumble and The Bull Pen also post on the issue. […]

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