Federated Farmers High Country

A Brief History

It would probably surprise many to know that the Federated Farmers High Country Industry Group began its days as an advisory board to the Minister of Lands. It might even surprise the Minister!
Because of a range of problems pertaining to the High Country ranging from low wool prices, rabbits and land tenure issues, a meeting of all run-holders was called at Tekapo In 1939.

One request that emerged from that meeting was for a separate land board for pastoral lands. The then Minister of Lands rejected that proposal but agreed that he would accept an advisory board consisting of High Country run-holders representing each of the provincial land districts.

Thus in 1940 the High Country Committee was born comprising eight members:
  1 from Marlborough
  3 from Canterbury (i.e. North, Mid and South)
  3 from Otago (i.e. North, Central and Lakes)
1 from Southland

By 1945 a system of voluntary donation, to help with costs of representatives was in place. This was started by the Mackenzie run-holders who voluntarily levied themselves two guineas (4.20) each.

When Federated Farmers was incorporated in 1946 the group was invited to join as part of the Meat & Wool section. This led to the formalisation of representation by delegates appointed at the provincial level one of whom would be elected Chairman. The Chairman was also offered a position on Dominion Lands Committee and Dominion Council. It is interesting to note that the chair at the time refused the position on Dominion Council.

One of the advantages of joining with Federated Farmers was that funding for much of the expenses of the committee was provided. Consequently the voluntary levy was discontinued about 1947. During the mid ‘80s with increasing demands on the Committee and a reluctance by Federated Farmers to increase funding, the committee canvassed High Country farmers and a system of a voluntary membership levy was again put in place in 1986. This remains in place but is voted on each year at the AGM segment of the High Country Conference.

The committee structure and function has remained much the same over the years until 1987 when the principle of having an independent chairman was adopted. The committee elects its own chair from among the provincial representatives.  This person is then deemed to be independent of his/her province and acts on behalf of all High Country farmers. The province from which the chair came then nominates a replacement member.

After the demise of the Dominion Lands Committee it was recognised that the Meat & Wool section alone did not provide for all High Country issues so the original proposal for the chair to hold a position on the Dominion Council was uplifted in 1991, although the High Country Committee retained its position as a member of the Meat & Wool section.

A further change in status took place following the restructure of Federated Farmers in 1997. At Federated Farmers National Conference in 1998 the South Island High Country (SIHC) group applied for, and was granted independent "Industry Group" status within the Federated Farmers structure.

This move has enabled SIHC to call on the wider resources of Federated Farmers than was the case in the past when a specific (Otago-based) policy analyst was partly funded from SIHC funds in return for his acting on behalf of SIHC. Work done for SIHC by other Federated Farmers personnel was commissioned on a "pay-as-you-go" basis. This included the secretarial/administrative work that had always been undertaken by Federated Farmers South Canterbury (the province of the founding Mackenzie members).

Both these duties are now carried out by Federated Farmers staff: The role of policy advisor being undertaken by the Federation's Timaru-based policy advisor while administration is generally handled through Dunedin. (This does require us – or makes it easier for us – to ensure that all SIHC are members of Federated Farmers. This has always been a requirement of membership.)

A further name change took effect in 2007 when Federated Farmers “rebranded” all its Industry Groups. The group is now known as “Federated Farmers High Country”.

The HCC has generally restricted its activities to those that affect the High Country.  It has been effective in presenting the High Country farmers' perspectives in a range of issues including the Crown Pastoral Lands Act, RHD, rural fire, pest control (animal and plant), Pastoral Lease rent renewals and Tenure Review.

The committee also regularly seeks meetings with the Ministers of Lands Information, Conservation, the Environment and Agriculture and their respective departments or ministries.