4 - Land Ownership or Owership?
The Estate in Fee Simple title granted by the Crown, under which land is
held not owned, by definition implies an obligation. Fee is a derivative of fief
or trust originally granted by the King to certain Barons in return for services
to be rendered in time of battle, on demand, or on state occasions—an
acknowledgement of the trust.
About the time of Runnymede (1215) the Barons not only curtailed the King's tyrannical
rule without trial but at the same time entrenched their privilege by satisfying their
obligations in other ways e.g. a beer tax amd other levies on the poor. Later came the
enclosures (privatisation) of the Common lands.
This privilege that the Barons arrogated to themselves has become entrenched and fragmented
over the centuries. Today it is bought and sold as the freehold title i.e. the right to claim
the economic rent, with income and other taxes in lieu, progressively enshrined in statute.
So the estate in fee simple is essentially a holding in trust, without specified
obligations, conditions or terms i.e. an open ended leasehold which can be inherited without
constraint. This basic status readily admits the inclusion of more stringent terms such as
Town Planning ordinances, environmental regulations and the like, as terms of the lease which
recognise and give effect to the fundamental social relationship—the Crown and the subject;
the community and the individual; landlord and the life-tenant. A lease also sets out the rights
of the lessee i.e. the rights and responsibilities of both parties.
Misperception about leasehold tenure arises because it is comparatively uncommon and is enjoyed
without fuss wherever it is in place. Substantial parts of Masterton and Greytown are leased by
Trust Lands Trusts with singular acceptance, even modest pride. Many Local Bodies and Central
Government have inherited harbour reclamations, Hospital and Education Board leases etc regulated
by the "Public Bodies Leases Act".
The Act is brief and usually only in the news because the 21 year rent reviews are an anachronism
under the impact of inflation—mainly caused by freehold land price! The same remarks apply
to the endowment Melanesian Mission leases of the Anglican Church on the most valuable residential
sites in NZ.
Likewise the big transport rigs worth millions are leased by operators. Smart developers prefer
Council leasehold land because they can then invest more capital in the building. Leasehold tenure
ensures security for the private operation, and for the community's interest in the enduring
ownership of its natural resources and natural monopolies.