Wairoa appeal goes against forest owners

Friday 1 Sep 2023

The Court of Appeal in Wellington has found against forest owners in their judicial review of the Wairoa District Council imposing a differential rate on foresters. The Court of Appeal ruled it was necessary for councils to follow a democratic process even if the outcome was unfair for some ratepayers.

The Court decided there was no evidence that the Mayor of Wairoa wanted to exclude forestry in the district to protect farming, though the Court did accept that farming had been declining in the region for many years through removal of subsidies.

The Court also accepted at face value the claims by Beef + Lamb NZ that farming supported many more workers per unit of land that forestry did – simply by excluding the forest harvest workforce.

The judgment is a dangerous one for all land users, not just foresters. It opens a door for local government to force some land users to effectively subsidise other less profitable ones out of simple political prejudice. FOA will be pushing the incoming government to amend the Local Government Act to try to ensure fairer outcomes in the future.

For further coverage on the case and legal challenge;

Forest owners lose appeal in Council rates stoush, and

Wairoa council fights off industry’s court challenge to higher rates for forest companies

In response to the decision, the Forest Owners Association wants the incoming government to change the Local Government Act to protect minority ratepayers in rural areas.

The FOA says the recent Court of Appeal judgment, against forest owners in Wairoa, opens the way for local councils to make arbitrary rates decisions against minority landowners.

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Sources: Forest Owners Association, Gisborne Herald, NZ Herald

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