Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Bill - Second reading

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

STUART SMITH: That is quite a mouthful—“non - non-controversial”—but I take the point of the honourable member Damien O’Connor. The Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Bill—otherwise known as a “ROLD” bill—is quite an interesting bill when you look at some of the history. It is sort of a journey through history, really, and through the interaction of local government with central government, and some of the errors that need to be dealt with in this bill.
The bill makes a number of non-controversial changes—and I guess I am in a different camp to the honourable member Damien O’Connor about those—to land statuses resulting from applications from local authorities and Government departments. There are nine proposed by the Department of Conservation, six by local authorities, and one each by the Ministry of Transport and the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, which is of course in the Kaikōura electorate.

Matters included in a Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Bill are identified as being non-controversial, which is a point of some debate at the moment, and they have the consent of all the parties involved. So it is right that we deal with these things through the House today in a bill like this. It is absolutely essential that we get these things sorted out so that the land concerned is actually now used for the purposes that are needed by the people who really should have control of it.

The bill corrects historical oversights and removes restrictions on land that are no longer relevant. Time does move on, and I will touch on that a little bit later, but the bill updates legislation and makes it fit for purpose. It provides for better community use of the land, and I think a lot of these particular changes go back to community uses of land that have long since ceased to exist, particularly one around the district health board, which I will touch on later.

It is in line with current Government policy about dealing with rules and regulation, and trying to cut through red tape and rules that are no longer fit for purpose or duplicative, and, in this case, that are not even hitting the mark at all. Currently, we are running through with the Rules Reduction Taskforce and focusing right on these particular matters. I have had the pleasure of holding two Rules Reduction Taskforce meetings where we have engaged with the councils and with various industry sector groups, identifying issues that might be dealt with.

My understanding is that there is an interim report going to the relevant Minister, who will be able to come up with some really good changes that will get rid of some of those duplicative rules, so we avoid having to wait as long as we have in this case, with some of these rules and mistakes going right back to the 1800s. That is really a long time ago and they should have been dealt with many years ago, I would suggest.

Touching on the points made earlier that it really should not get to this stage, and that councils and district health boards should not be seeking law changes just to suit their purposes with the land that they own, after they have carried out some sort of change, it really is not apparent that it is a problem until you are part way through the process and the relevant authorities get to a position where they were—in the case of the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, at Wairau Hospital—already in the process of upgrading or rebuilding the hospital. I can report that the Wairau Hospital rebuild is actually complete now, but none the less, it still needs to be brought up to date with these relevant changes.

Clauses 24 to 27 relate to the land that the Marlborough District Council’s Picton office is on. The council wishes to validate a previous dealing with the land and remove the interest in relation to the Picton Institute Act 1864 from the title to the land. So, as I said, it goes back quite some time—in fact, in 1864, in Picton, they had their own council. They no longer do; they come under the Marlborough District Council.

In 1864 there was somewhat of a boom going on in oil—whale oil, not mineral oil—and, in fact, the whole area and landscape has changed. This demonstrates, I think, how these bills and things have got completely out of whack. Interestingly, I had Ron Perano in my office the other day. The Perano family are a very famous whaling family who go right back to the beginning of whaling in the Marlborough Sounds. He had some really interesting stories to tell about how they coped in those days, whaling and using their whaleboats around the Sounds. Yes, I am coming back to the bill, Mr Speaker.

The Picton Institute Act 1864 authorised a superintendent of the province of Marlborough to convey the Picton office land to trustees as a site for the Picton Institute. The transfer took place in 1903. Land was unlawfully transferred to the representatives of the borough for Picton. Accordingly, clause 26 validates the transfer of the land in 1903, and clause 27 repeals the Picton Institute Act 1864.

The reason this all happened back in 1903 was that the last of the trustees had died and replacements could not be found for them. Then the institute unlawfully transferred the land. So that mistake goes right back, really, to the unfortunate demise of the trustees and nobody stepping up to take their places. Had they done so, things could have been dealt with in a lawful manner. We would not be dealing with this today. However, that is history. The building itself is no longer, as I said, used by the Marlborough District Council. There is no Picton Institute any longer. There is no Picton Council. So it is quite right that this bill deals with that.

Clauses 28 to 34 relate to the five pieces of land owned by the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board. One of those pieces of land is a bit of land out at French Pass, for a public health nurse. That is no longer used. There is no public health nurse stationed out there. Back in those days, of course, when this was dealt with, all of the Marlborough Sounds was being farmed. It was cleared for trees. There was some logging done initially. It was cleared for trees and being farmed. We had a large population living in that area in the sounds.

If you have ever been out there, or if anyone else has been out that way, it is a very long, winding drive on a modern road. You can fly in, and perhaps that is the best way to get in, or go by boat, but in those days communications were very difficult and it was quite right and proper that the district health board had a station out there for public health. That is no longer required, hence this bill. In fact, today much of that land is reverting back to native, as it should do, and it is very beautiful. Accordingly, clauses 30 to 34 remove the relevant trusts from the titles and revoke any reservations of the land as reserves.

I would like to turn now to what the member from the Opposition mentioned earlier—the Overseas Investment Office, relevant to the Land Information office. I think it really should not go unchallenged. He talked about some of the approvals that have gone through and mentioned the Crafar farms, which is being bought by Shanghai Pengxin. I had the pleasure, with other members of the relevant committee for this bill, the Primary Production Committee, of travelling around and looking at the Shanghai Pengxin operation, which is run by Landcorp*now. I think it has demonstrated that actually the Act does work and the Land Information office and the Minister are doing their job. Shanghai Pengxin had, as part of its conditions, undertaken to spend $18 million upgrading that farm, and actually it had spent $22 million. I think that brings back the importance of the Land Information office and the Minister responsible for this bill.

One other thing I will just touch on before I finish is the Ōāmaru and Waitaki District Council land, which is Lookout Point or Forrester Heights. That goes back to the 1885, 1937, and 1947 Orders in Council*, all one after the other, putting error on top of error. So it is appropriate that this bill deals with that. So it is with pleasure that I commend the bill to the House. Thank you.