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Who Owns the Highcountry?

The last 20 years have seen massive change in the iconic high-country stations of the South Island. Traditionally, a lease between the Crown and the runholder gave the right to farm in perpetuity. Recently there has been an initiative to reform this ownership structure in a process called tenure review. This has seen deals struck between runholders and the Government that allow the runholder to privatise (and subsequently develop) parts of their farm and in exchange offer other parts of the farm back to the Crown to be 'retired' as conservation land. On paper this appeared to be a win-win scenario. The reality, however, has been very different. Through her research, the author exposed the fact that in most cases of tenure review, the Crown was actually paying the runholder to conclude these agreements, while at the same time leaving the runholder with the freedom to develop their newly freeholded land for massive profits. Examples of these deals include parts of the shorelines of Lake Hawea, Wanaka, Wakatipu and Tekapo, as well as some of the finest vineyard country in Central Otago. Who Owns the High Country? explains Ann Brower's contentious research and the subsequent controversy it created, and concludes with the highly significant U-turn from the Government last year that halted the review process. This is a significant book, of interest to anyone who cares about the high country of the South Island.