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.''

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