The method adopted for fixing rent at the commencement of a pastoral lease was based on a rate per thousand sheep and assessed on the carrying capacity of the property exclusive of improvements to the native cover by the lessee. The rate was varied depending on such factors as snow risk, isolation, costs of working, and the like. It is obvious that Government policy by requiring lessees to find excessive rentals. That this policy was to ensure that the welfare of the country was not prejudiced was a sound one has never been questioned. The security given to runholders by the 1948 Land Act, followed by buoyant wool prices and the introduction of succe..<>.5ful techniques for rabbit control during the 1950s, set the scene for the rehabilitation of much of the high country and a period of prosperity for its lessees.
Pastoral leases, some 600 in all, cover approximately eight million acres throughout the South Island. They are admin- istered by the Department of Lands :.ind Survey through the Commis.sioner of Crown Lands in each lane district. To him falls the responsibility for ensuring that regular inspections are carried out, that stock limitations are being ob erved, and all the conditions of the lease are being complied with. He has the power to issue permits for the burning of vegetation or cultiva- tion on certain areas where he is satisfied erosion or deterioration of cover will not occur, and his approval must be obtained before a soil conservation run plan can be entered into by a lessee.
The duties of the Chief Pastoral Lands Officer are to advise the Land Settlement Board on matters of policy relating to pas- toral lands, to ensure that the policy of the Board is being cor- rectly followed in its districts, and generally to assist liaison between the Board and its pastoral lessees.
The Land Amendment Act 1970 which became operative on the 1st January 1971 will have no effect, during present 33 year terms, on leases granted or under action for renewal prior to that date. All future leases, including renewals of those existing, will, however, provide for reviews of annual rents at 11-yearly intervals. Other amending clauses, while significant f ram the viewpoint of the holder of a Renewable Lease, or to the pastoral lessee who has obtained reclassification on this basis, have no relevance to pastoral leases.
The first renewals of these leases issued under the 1948 Act will not come up until the 1980s and as yet no firm statement of policy on the method of assessing rentals has been announced by the Land Settlement Board. It would seem, however, that the welfare of the land and the economics of pastoral farming must be paramount factors influencing any decisions made.
Pastoral Occupation Licence
Along with the establishment of pastoral leases the 1948 Act made provision for a second type of high-country tenure - the pastoral occupation licence. This licence could be for any term up to 21 years but carried no right of renewal. Initially it was used for land where permanent tenure was thought to be not desirable because of a possible later need to regroup this land or because of its potential for erosion which would require that the land be retired temporarily or permanently from pastoral use. These were the main factors influencing the issue of the licence and in recent years it has found a useful place as a sep- arate tenure on parts of properties with conservation run plans.
When a runholder retires class VII and VIII country he re- ceives subsidised assistance from a catchment authority to develop lower land in exchange for the gradual withdrawal of stock from the higher areas.
Nowadays a condition of a run plan ensures that these retired areas are surrendered from the pastoral lease and placed on pastoral occupation licence until destocking is completed.
Frequently, too, a runholder may wish to retain control of such land, even after destocking is completed to ensure that unresj tricted public entry does not lead to disturbance to stock on adjoining areas or to ensure no fires are lit which could endanger his neighbouring land. There has been trenchant criticism, by some sections of the public, of the system 0f pastoral occupation licences but it must be remembered that land can only be sur- rended voluntarily from the runholder's lease. From the Crown's point of view he is the best caretaker obtainable. The nonnal clauses of a pastoral lease concerning control of noxious weeds and animals also apply to occupation licences. This, through rates or in other ways may involve the licencee in considerable expenditure.
In spite of the retirement of many thousands of acres of high country throughout the South Island, stock numbers, and in particular cattle numbers, continue to increase on the remaining land. Last season a survey of 82 runs for which stock increases were granted showed an increase of 15 percent in sheep and I 09 percent in cattle numbers during the previous 12 months.
With the virtual elimination of the rabbit problem in many areas and the application of modern techniques for improvement, the character of certain runs has changed to the stage where they can no longer be regarded as "suitable only for pastoral pur- poses". While the Land Settlement Board does not consider it neccs.sary or desirable to deliberately encourage pastoral les.5ees to convert to renewable leases, the 1948 Act gave the right of application for reclassification. Reclassification as "farm land"
is a right not readily granted and the Board insists, where there is any vulnerability to erosion, that it does not relinquish the degree of control over management which it may exercise under a pastoral lease. If there is any suspicion that the rountry could deteriorate under poor farming practices it is far better for the Board, in the public interest, to retain its powers to ensure that good husbandry is observed rather than have a catchment author- ity step in at a later stage when damage is apparent and costly measures necessary for erosion control or the restoration of vegetative cover.
Applications are sometimes received for the reclassification of the more favoured parts of a run but the Board must be assured that the remaining portion of the property will still be a viable proposition, with adequate supporting winter country and land suitable for a homestead site, before it will consider divorcing, under different tenure, an area which could then be disposed of independently.
Reclassification may be acceptable to the Land Settlement Board where any areas considered susceptible to erosion are surrendered for retirement. In such cases the consetvation authorities are consulted to ensure that the boundaries being fixed are acceptable to them. The land capability system adopted nationally by these authorities provides a valuable yardstick for ensuring that land which is potentially productive is not being closed off, nor that the Board's control of stocking over land that is potentially erodible is lost.
Jn recent years applications have been received from a number of pastoral lessees to operate on their properties various types 0f commercial enterprises, usually involving tourist activity. It seems certain that the future will see an even greater swing in this direction. Recent forecasts of trends in the United States indicate that by the end of the century recreational activity in urban parks and reserves will have increased by 400 percent and in the rangelands by 4000 percent!
As previously stated, a pastoral lease confers on the holder the right to graze the land only. Specific permission must be obtained even if only for cultivation or burning. Obviously a widening of the scope of the lease is required for other enterprises centred on the property. In such cases a special lease, under a specific section of the 1948 Land Act, may be granted by the Land Settlement Board in place of the existing lease. Where it is pos.sible to separate the area on which the particular activity takes place, as in the case of a commercial ski field, no problem is encountered. The land is surrendered from the pastoral lease and a special lease, with a rental normally based on a specific amount during the period of establishment and on a percentage of turnover later, is granted.
Where the commercial enterprise is combined with continued pastoral use, greater problems are encountered by the Board in assessing rentals under a special lease. Activities may vary from guided safari operations, sometimes high-priced and cater- ing mainly for overseas clientele, to pony treks, the provision of holiday accommodation, perhaps with a meal and some inspec- tion of station activities, taxi-plane ser.-:~e.' for visiting shooters, or to a combination of several of these.
These enterprises vary from large scale ones involving consid- erable capital expenditure and high overheads, to small scale operations where the main contribution is a domestic one by way
Opposite: At some time in their lives urban dwellers wish to rub shoulders with the wilderness. Horse trekking in the Mandamus valley.
Island HUis photo: L. Shand.
of provision of meals or lodging. The ventures fall into three groups:
(a) Where the operations are conducted wholly or almost wholly on freehold land run in conjunction with a
lease. The pastoral lease will not be afkcted.
( b) Where the operations are carried out wholly or almost wholly on pastoral lease.
( c) Where the venture is carried out partly on pastoral lease and partly on other land.
Principles adopted by the Land Settlement Board in March 1971 were that the Board would replace pastoral leases, where other activities were significant, with special leases having no right of freehold, but containing the normal provisions regarding good husbandry. The rental would be as for a pastoral lease plus an additional rent for the tourist venture. This rent would be reviewed at five-yearly intervals and during the initial establish- ment period a basic or minimum rent would be charged. For the second and subsequent periods it would be based on a per- centage of average gross revenue for the previous five years, this percentage to be fixed having regard to the capital investment and cost structure of the enterprise. Where the venture was wholly on pastoral lease the full percentage of return or the basic rent, whichever was the greater, would be paid. Where the activitiy was partly on pastoral lease and partly on other land the basic rent or percentage would be varied in proportion to the extent of use.
A head office committee will declare and fix the proportions of the activity that are applicable to the lease and review these at five-yearly intervals if necessary. If the Jes.see wished to dis- continue the tourist venture at any time he would have the right to surrender his special lease and revert to a pastoral one.
Noxious Animal Control
Multiple use of pastoral land brings with it many problems and with declining prices for wool it is natural that runholders will wish to exploit any avenue whic.h will supplement their incomes at such a time. Extra vigilance may be required by those responsible for the administration of our high country to ensure that such exploitation does not lead to an abuse of the good husbandry provisions contained in both pastoral :and special leases. Runholders must be made aware that even under a special lease for tourist ventures the policy of the Land Settle- ment Board regarding noxious animal control remains unchang- ed. Although recognising that complete eradication is in most cases both impracticable and uneconomic it insists that animals be held at a level where their presence is not damaging or poten- tially damaging to the country. If there is any indication that an undue build-up is occurring, and the lessee has failed to take adequate measures to reduce it, the Forest Service will be called on to carry out appropriate operations to ensure this.
I feel that the future will see a gradual integration of tourist and recreational activity into the pastoral scene in New Zealand and that it will provide a valuable supplement to incomes on properties which could easily be marginally economic otherwise.
The welfare of the land must always be our prime consideration and the economic health of our lessees is a vital factor in pre- serving this. Changing use of our high country should, too, bring greater enjoyment of this priceles.s asset by the public as long as sane policies of administration are pursued and tolerance and understanding is maintained between those whose living and those whose recreation come from our mountain lands.