Farmers win access rights in high court

Failed High Court action by NZ Fish and Game has provoked a farming leader to question whether public funds have been misappropriated and others to call for a review of the organisation's powers. Farmer reaction has been fierce and vocal after the High Court in Wellington on Wednesday found in favour of pastoral lessees and against Fish and Game which sought a declaratory judgement on whether lessees have exclusive possession and giving the public greater access to leasehold land reports The ODT. There have been calls for the Government to review Fish and Game's powers, accusations of a waste of money and calls for the head of its chief executive, Bryce Johnson. High Country Accord chairman Jonathan Wallis said Fish and Game was a public entity established under the Conservation Act, but ignored Crown Law Office advice by taking action against the Commissioner of Crown Land and farmers. "Was this a misappropriation of public funds?" he asked. Mr Wallis said the money to fund the court action could have been spent more wisely. "Certainly, the precious funds generated from Fish and Game licence fees used to prosecute the case would have been much better used to protect and establish habitat for our fish and game. "And the taxpayer funds used to defend the Crown's position could also have been much better used in these trying times." It was understood defending the case cost farmers more than $200,000, for which they would seek costs.

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