Legalised theft: Eckhoff

Gerry Eckhoff.
Gerry Eckhoff.
The idea that the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society can, through the Environment Court, halt agricultural work on privately owned land rankles with retired Roxburgh farmer and Otago regional councillor Gerry Eckhoff.

''What has happened is ... the right to farm has been appropriated by environmental groups, effectively.

''It appears as though that right has been stealthily removed from the farming community.''

Mr Eckhoff believed it was ''totally wrong'' that conservationists could stop development of farmland in Kane Rd, south Hawea Flat, without any form of compensation.

''If the council and Forest and Bird want land to remain in its natural state then they should buy those development rights.

''Anything short of that is basically legalised theft''.

Mr Eckhoff rang the Otago Daily Times to ''vent his frustration'' over the intervention of Forest and Bird.

He said he did not consider there was any land outside national parks under 800m that was still in its natural state.

''Left for 50 years it probably will regenerate into some form of dryland natural state.

''But is that a reasonable request that we should be putting on our farming community; that they continue to try and make a living from the land but they are not allowed to fertilise it, they are not allowed to plough it, they are not allowed to apply water?''

He challenged the comment that the farmer might have caused ''irreparable environmental damage'' to the land.

''Well, what is productive green pasture? Is that regarded as irreparable environmental damage?

''It's a nonsense concept.''

He believed more people needed to speak out about such issues.

''I think there's a need for a bit of balance in this discussion.''

Ownership vs stewardship

Molyuneux Rush: It could equally be argued that a landlord has a duty of care that no action by the landlord prejudices the Tenant in Common from going about their lawful business. If the landlord did not wish for the land to be cultivated he should have gazetted his wish in that respect. He did not in this case but he has now through his agent, the Environment Court, retrospectively carried out an action that restricts the Tenant from going about a normal action associated with the business of farming. 

I am sure with a studious amount of research there may well be decrees in the past from the Crown on record, that the land be cultivated and farmed in a manner in keeping with good stewardship as and approved by the kings representative ... a decree more than likely from a Catholic King to his Scottish tenants, which by the way more than likely is a reason for the Presbryterian views on Catholisism. 


Owners are always liable

It was John D Rockefeller who said “Own nothing. Control everything.” It is not true that a land owner is master of their land with total rights, as implied by this councillor. Total control over land requires an allodial title, and most land titles are fee simple with the owner described as “tenant”. This is because the state has the controlling interest, as trustee and public servant, supposedly for the common benefit of the people. This is how land can be zoned and rated (taxed) by the state. The root of the word “owner” is “owe”. The owner of anything always bears the liability. That's why the Rockefellers and most of the super wealthy do not own anything. Suffice to say that a land owner is accountable, and not above the state, or above the people who delegate their authority to that state.

Photographer not a terrorist

Red Tussock- please explain how taking a photo makes someone a "Green Journo terrorist".

Using such extremist language to label someone is totally unnecessary and does the farming side of the debate no good whatsoever.

Old heads

Actively manage planting the native bush back where it was burnt off 150 years ago for your family's success then. Gee I wonder where all the wilding plants actually came from in the first place? Not farmers surely? Not the wilding rabbits, possums, stoats,weasels, deer, pigs, goats, sheep and cattle for that matter either? Not from such lords of the land as them? Diddimo and algal bloom in your rivers yet? Just wait. It's on the way. Nice that you can still swim in the waterways on your property. Can I bring the family up for a dip? We are not so lucky downstream.

From one with experience

Having undertaken a similar kind of development myself, I think you will find that the soil structure will greatly improve provided the right practices are applied - we found that the first year cultivated the soil was light, friable and prone to wind erosion. After two years of brassicas, organic matter and worms/bugs had increased substantially, water holding capacity had increased and wind was no longer a problem. We have a 600-700mm rainfall, not dissimilar to Hawea, and have NO irrigation - we had to apply a lot of lime to correct ph/acidity issues but not a lot of phosphate/nitrogen. The area is now planted in lucerne and fattening lambs and the depth of topsoil is gradually increasing and previous problems with hieracium, broom and wilding trees have disappeared. Areas like this are are a culturally induced landscape ie. they have been farmed in some manner for 150 years and if you remove some form of active management, more aggressive introduced species will take over before any native has a look in.

And as an aside, my family still swim in and drink from the creeks that flow through our property, still as pristine as they were 20 years ago. 

landlords who care

"good of all New Zealand" give me a break. Farmers should only be allowed to draw their drinking water from the same waterways that run through their land. Lets see if they smarten up the old act then aye. Some farmers are abusers of the land not husbands. Fonterra gets rich, the government gets rich. I or my dog can't swim in a river when is hot because its so "clean and green " here now. I am glad they are taking New Zealand back off those who can't be trusted to do the right thing.


For better or worse New Zealand is becoming increasingly urbanised and becoming disconnected from its rural roots resulting in poorly informed opinions and attitudes. This is evidenced by @treepanda who I doubt knows the farmer's situation talking sarcastically about "poor farmers" when actually they often are literally poor. Every farmer has individual situations and many are doing well, but generally only the dairy farmers and many of them have sizeable debt. All of them work hard however.

Farm land is farm land.

To infer that it will be farmed unsustainably is quite presumptous. This meddling in property rights inhibits farming of any kind, dairy or otherwise so it's irrelevant whether it will be dairy or not.

Ask me, I am very good at

Ask me, I am very good at turning very poor producing soils into highly productive pasture as are the thousands of  NZ's competent farmers. If the poor soil theory expounded here was true then very little of New Zealand would be farmland.

Your land, not your water

Yes, by all means it should be the right of any land owner to do with their land what they want - for better or worse - as long as the consequences of those decisions do not adversely effect their neighbours. That means paying for use of river and ground water and no degregation of water quality from runoff. Pretty simple really.


It is farmland ... has been ever since it has been farmed by man ... 

Soil management

As you drive past this paddock look to your right ... I am an old "digger driver",  about 20,000 hours or so. I see no issue with soil management from the standard development model. That's the modern version .. it is sustainable and appropriate to this situation. Please, what exactly is wrong with the development of this paddock, as opposed to the one next door, in this case? This argument does the green movement in NZ no good whatsoever.

My point exactly

It is farmland ... given good farm husbandry it will be very productive land for the good of all NZ. Do you think all the rest of NZ was highly fertile land before it was farmland? Good grief. Do you urbanites think farmers recieve the bounty of this country by sitting around and collecting the milk cheque? it come from hard work, lots of sweat, and lots of tears.
The only farmers left profitably farming in NZ are the ones good at sustainable agriculture. What's good for the farmer is in the end good for this country. Rise rural NZ, rise.

Nice green productive pasture?

It is semi-desert land - it is never going to be "
nice green productive pasture" unless it is highly irrigated and fertilised. Have a look at the issues in Canterbury and MacKenzie country surrounding degradation of water quality and nitrate run off. We are talking about the start of the river here, the damage done here will have all sorts of consequences downstream.


Very poor soils

As usual, Eckhoff is ranting about the plight of the poor hard done by farmer. The article does not state the intended purpose of the work done. All I know is there has been a lot of conversion to dairy up on the Tarras Flats, turning soil with little or no structure into intensive grazing ground by the application of copious amounts of water and fertiliser, and it's ruining the soil. Talk to any digger operator or anyone not directly involved with farming and /or irrigation installation and they will tell you about soil pugging, raised saline levels and all sorts of serious issues to do with modifying soils that are not designed for intensive cropping. The nitrate run-offs are the very first thing to worry about at the very top of the river... Right above Lake Dunstan... As the original article states, once the damage is done, it's very hard to fix. Someone has to step in and stop it because farmers aren't going to.

Natural farming

There are a lot of natural farming techniques where farming can increase fertility, over suply water and increase yeild all without fertiliser and expensive irrigation. No doubt forest and bird are also unawear of such skills. It's not that practise of farming that needs to change, its the technique. Permanent agriculture - look it up.



Whole-hearted support

Couldn't describe it better than legalised theft of Land. The usurping of private land ownership, in NZ. Another very annoying aspect of the article in the ODT shows the area having received its first cut of the discs - the area photographed was cultivated some time ago. Any farmer can tell you that, the early pass of any cultivation looks untidy, so why use it to show some sort of desecration? After all, the farmer was prevented from completing the cultivation process, which now leaves the area prone to wind erosion. I question whether the "Green Journo terrorist" that took the photo would care to take a photo in a year's time when its nice green productive pasture?
The area in question is farmland... you know, the areas of NZ where all the wealth of this nation is derived. If you dont like the fact that the country you live in derives its wealth from producing food for the world, then by all means move to somewhere else in the world. If you want the area to remain in its pristine cultivated 20-something-years-ago state then front up with your chequebook and make an offer. If it is accepted,  sit and watch it revert for the next 50 years. If it's not, tough luck - that's what democracy and free enterprise is.[Abridged]

Not in this case

Even the environmentalist admits that the land was highly modified before the farmer began improving it. If environmentalists want the right to control that land they should buy it from the farmer (assuming he even wants to sell it).

Not nonsense

Sec 45 is power of entry

Government Valuation told me that someone entered my property on January 14 of this year, unbeknown to me, because they got my building permit from the DCC and decided that my house needed valuing - the problem is not all was finished so I find it hard to see how you can value a house by drive by. [Abridged]


Where did you get that nonsense from Kris?  Rating values are generally a paper-based or pretty much a drive-by exercise.  In the few occasions that actual visits are required it is only to confirm whether the property has been changed in such a way that the value has changed significantly, usually at the owner's request.  

Revaluations tend to occur about every three years or so, not "at any time".   

Rates are the legitimate manner through which the local services that you and the wider community receive services rely on. Services that wouldn't be available if individuals or households tried to deliver them on their own and unaffordable if they were provided commercially.  Relax and get used to it.


Agree wholeheartedly

I agree wholeheartedly with Gerry. In fact, it is very discriminatory.On the one hand we have allowed vast areas of natural landscapes to be developed into vineyards, and on the other we are trying to prevent development by a landowner seeking to make the land a more productive asset adding value to the economy. The same should be done in the Omarama basin. Far sooner see a thriving agricultural community than a desolate landscape. Opuha irrigation dam is a wonderful example of value adding and a thriving ag community. 

Out of touch

It's a pity that the councillor hasn't bothered to take the time to read or ask about what might be done to protect remnants of natural environment in the Upper Clutha. If he had he would have found that a balanced approach is what has been proposed, and it could readily be put in place in this particular case and within the current review of the Queenstown Lakes District Plan for other sites.

Farmers, including those involved in this case, can and regularly do develop their land while actually protecting and enhancing the natural environment on and adjacent to their farms. Constructive approaches are only undermined by ill-advised meddling by out of touch politicians. 

Protecting unique areas of relatively untouched natural significance is essential to the wellbeing of the natural environment, our waterways, our communities, and our economic future. Open-minded farmers know this, understand and appreciate environmental management rules and guidance, and manage their land accordingly. [Abridged]

Welcome to the club

Any government department apparently has the right to enter private property at any time using the guise of crown rights e.g. the evaluation government department apparently can enter onto your land house with no permission from the owner. The can enter at any time make judgements on your house and boom, next day your rates have gone up 

Too right

Get into it Eckhoff! Good to see some common sense and spine in the council.