Monday, March 17, 2014

Gerry Eckhoff: Theft of Rural Land

Theft, by definition is a criminal act where property belonging to another is deceitfully taken without the owners consent and with the intention of depriving the owner of permanent possession and use. The various forms of theft have been given names such as robbery, burglary, embezzlement yet there is still no name given to the legal taking of private property without compensation.

The entitlement a rural land owner has to the reasonable use of their property is unchallenged by most, yet the environmental lobby deliberately seek to gain use rights away from the owner. The actual ownership of the land is never questioned as the rates (and usually the mortgage) must still be paid by the registered owner of the land in question. The legal right of use however of rural private property has been stealthily changed to allow those with a supposed “higher” use value (preservation) to acquire use rights at no cost to them and without compensation.

Even the theft of service such as literally the free riding of trains and buses is dealt with by the courts which take a dim view of such free riding, but when a Government or council decides to prohibit a legitimate land use that simply changes the grass species from weed species to productive,  they (the government)  are taking from the owner and giving their use rights to another at no cost; and the courts appear to side with the free riders. Perhaps some kind reader will enlighten me as to why this form of a taking is not theft.

How is it lawful for the state to take from one group (rural land owners ) and give to another group (environmental lobby groups) but where, if any private person committed such an act they would be guilty of theft. We appear to be living in a society filled with people who would never consider stealing directly from their neighbours but who are willing to demand the Government do it for them. So how does that work?

The restrictions now placed on rural land with so called “natural” values is a form of predatory pricing of a property as the government rules effectively lower the value of the property to a level that inflicts real pecuniary injury on the owner and prohibits competition for the land when offered for sale.

Government allocation of regulation - and the use of their unbridled power for political gain - allows for the coercement of an outcome that the environmental lobby applaud.

No farmer I know denies the value of conservation and indeed even preservation where warranted, but it must be done in a principled way.

The government and councils would do well to remember the words of the Roman philosopher Cicero who observed the following:
“The men who administer public affairs must first of all see that everyone holds onto what is his and that private men are never deprived of their property by public men.”
The quote could do with some updating, yet it holds as much truth today as it did in circa 43 BC. 

Gerry Eckhoff is a councillor on the Otago Regional Council and a former MP. 


Anonymous said...

We appear to be living in a society filled with people who would never consider stealing directly from their neighbours but who are willing to demand the Government do it for them.

Gee let's see. I guess you'd have to go back to Beveridge, William Pember Reeves & Michael Joseph Savage.

it's called the welfare state

Anonymous said...

refreshing I want everyone to keep the property he has acquired for himself according to the principle: benefit to the community precedes benefit to the individual. But the state should retain supervision and each property owner should consider himself appointed by the state. It is his duty not to use his property against the interests of others among his own people. This is the crucial matter. The Third Reich will always retain its right to control the owners of property.

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (1931)

Let them own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State, through the Party, is supreme over them regardless of whether they are owners or workers.

From a letter to Herman Rauschning, quoted in Why Does Socialism Continue to Appeal to Anyone?, by Robert Hessen

Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.

From a letter to Herman Rauschning, quoted in Why Does Socialism Continue to Appeal to Anyone?, by Robert Hessen

Anonymous said...


It occurs because New Zealand's legislative framework offers the weakest protections amongst OECD countries against these forms of 'regulatory takings'. See this piece by Lew Evans and Neil Quigley,14385/Land_Rights_paper_Final.pdf.

One means of addressing the matter of such takings is to have rigorous regulatory reviews - as per Bryce Wilkinson's Regulatory Responsibility proposals. Other countries have specific laws that constrain such activities by requiring that the government (or other legislating body - noting that local bodies are often the worst offenders, with their ability to add a whole raft of obligations upon landowners in their District Plans) demonstrate explicitly why such a taking 'for the public good' outweighs the losses to the private owner.

Australia, for example, has such legislation. This is in part why the Australian government opted to pay Optus and Telstra $10 billion compensation when imposing its own government-funded NBN over the top of their copper and cable networks. In New Zealand there was no such requirement. Hence there was no public consideration given to how the UFB would impose costs and risks (subsequently borne out in the debacle over proposed changes to regulated copper prices)on Chorus. If it was considered at all, the terms were buried deep in the 'commercially sensitive negotiations' between Crown Fibre Holdings and Chorus.

These sorts of requirements do not deprive the government from executing takings when the benefits exceed the costs. They simply require the case for doing so to be made transparent and (importantly) contestible BEFORE the act of confiscation takes place. By way of comparison, prior to NGNs and UFBs, Australia has imposed similar sorts of telecommunications regulations to those passed in New Zealand. However, it was a fundamental expectation that any proposed changes be accompanied by a cost-benefit analysis. Interestingly, in 2006, the NZ government explicitly rejected the need for a CBA before imposing local loop unbundling and functional separation - saying that not much had changed since the last CBA done in 2003, when the Telecommunications Commissioner recommended NOT to introduce the proposed regulation, in large part because of the threat to the assets of ENTRANTS when Telecom introduced its cabinetised network bypassing local exchanges. Guess wqho was bleating loudly for further constraints to be placed on Telecom in 2008 and 2009, when urban exchanges full of unbundlers' equipment started to be bypassed?

A little sunshine goes a long way.

Sam Esler said...

What else would one expect from this mean spirited Gov't. When we see a verdict of not guilty handed down by a legally constituted judge and jury, and a person released from jail after serving 11 years or so, and a minister who flat refuses to consider compensation, would they steal our land, you bet your life they would.

Anonymous said...

Sounds exactly like taxation to me, where people use the Government, as their burglar, through taxation to steal from their neighbours and pass the proceeds of the theft on to them in the form of welfare benefits!

Jim in Mangawhai