Otago Daily Times
Farmer fears for livelihood amid tenure review
CHARLES Innes looks too rugged to be a man who cannot sleep at night for worry.
However, he admits he does, and says he sometimes resorts to a little home brew to solve the problem.
With no tourists using his backpacker accommodation, a predicted 26% drop in average farm profits before tax on sheep and beef farms this season and children to educate at boarding school, Mr Innes has plenty of material for worrying.
He expected completing the tenure review process could help financially, although it might not save the farm.
The Innes family have held the 12,300ha of Dunstan Downs Crown pastoral leasehold land, neighbouring the Lindis Pass, for 101 years.
It first entered the review process 20 years ago, and the family hopes it will be completed next year.
If a ‘‘preliminary proposal’’ is accepted, the farm will become 2815ha of freehold land, with grazing concessions over a similar amount, but running out over the next 15 years.
It will consist of part of what Mr Innes refers to as the front country along State Highway 8, including a thin sliver of green rising steeply to brown hillsides.
The backcountry is a magnificent spread of tussock and scree slopes — including the headwaters of the Dunstan River — where Mr Innes sends his sheep for summer grazing.
That would become public conservation land, open to anyone keen for a long walk or cycle ride.
The family entered the process willing to give up a big chunk of the property’s Crown pastoral lease land in return for the freehold land and the promise of being independent.
Asked why it had taken so long to get to this point, Mr Innes said it was because of ‘‘bureaucratic nonsense — the other side not getting what they want’’.
The ‘‘other side’’ was the conservation lobby, members of which flew over the farm earlier this week assessing the land’s ecological values.
‘‘We’re giving away a massive amount of land,’’ Mr Innes said. ‘‘We’ve bent over backwards. ‘‘Yet, there’s no give on the other side.
‘‘Just take, take, take.’’
The family pulled out of the process once, having been ‘‘insulted’’ by an initial proposal.
The current proposal, now out for public submissions, would leave the family with a property that would be hard to farm economically, because of the loss of summer grazing land and the reduction in sheep numbers.
There was the prospect of cash for the lost income and for the property improvements given up, although Mr Innes said it was incorrect to suggest farmers were paid out for the land itself.
Asked about what plans the family had after tenure review, Mr Innes said, ‘‘what plan do you want to hear?’’
‘‘There’s been so many plans. ‘‘What can I afford to do, that is the big thing.’’