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Coasters fight "land grab"

Published: 6:26PM Friday October 20, 2006 Source: One News

A farmer is battling plans to turn 80% of his West Coast land into environmentally protected territory.

With 80% of his farm regarded as a a significant natural area, or SNA, Sid Barrett is not a happy man. He says the property has been in his family for 100 years and the government cannot tell him what to do with it.

"It's absolutely stupid, it's bureaucrats gone mad."

Barrett's farm is sphagnum moss country, but like lot of farmers on the West Coast he may switch to dairying. His fear is that if the SNA becomes a reality, he will not be able to.

"Lot of decisions made and no-one thinks of the cost on humans. Terrible stressful for people to have to go through this sort of thing."

Declaring land SNA means that farmers must get resource consent before they alter it. There may also be no compensation for the loss of land, or for legal costs of gaining resource consent.

The local council has the job of setting up the SNA and negotiating what, if any compensation, should be paid.

Like Barrett Greymouth Mayor Tony Kokshoorn is not happy about the SNA scheme, likening it to the actions of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe.

"It's like a Mugabe land grab to come and try and take people's private land off them," he says.

"I'll be going to the council next month and I'll be asking them to stop the process until the Minister David Benson-Pope comes up with legitimate reasons why we should progress with this SNA identification."

With 87% of land on the West Coast already protected one way or another, there is a general feeling that the remaining 13% should be left alone so people can earn a living off it.

The government says criticism at this stage is unfair because the process has just started and there is plenty of opportunity to negotiate an agreement.

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