This article presents a case of using property rights to govern land use in the high country of New Zealand's South Island. It tells the story of a land reform policy and its implementation over two decades, through changes in rules and governing parties. It observes land reform outcomes that are surprisingly favourable to pastoral leaseholders, and surprisingly unfavourable to the Crown. It then explores several possible explanations, including the logic of collective action, bargaining dynamics, principal-agent problems, and ideas of ownership. It concludes that John Locke's labour theory of property holds sway in New Zealand's land reform, despite what the law prescribes. This raises questions about whether using property rights to manage land use meets the ‘3Es’ of good policy: effectiveness, efficiency, and equity.

You do not currently have access to this content.