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Speech to South Island High Country field day

Speech to South Island High Country field day
Molesworth Station
16 March 2005
By John Aspinall

John Aspinall is a High Country farmer and Federated Farmers of New Zealand's spokesman on land access.

Today at Molesworth Station it is appropriate to talk about the government's access proposals. The government has taken over direct management of Molesworth to provide an integrated programme of conservation and recreation in the public interest.

The government is also proposing to confiscate private land supposedly in the public interest for access purposes.

Over the last two years there has been some movement in the Government’s proposals for walking access. The original terms of reference for the Acland reference group were to investigate a wander-at-will option but there was no support for this. The proposal then changed to a 20 metre strip along all waterways without a current marginal strip. The current proposal is for a five metre strip along ‘significant waterways’. The five metres may extend up to 20 metres if the bank is vegetated and/or not easily defined. It would apply no closer than 50 metres from a residence or 20 metres from a building, and walkers are not to damage crops. This raises a number of issues. If implemented there is likely to be major opposition to building consent applications within 50 metres or 20 metres of waterways. Landowners would lose the ability to turn away people who you suspect are there for an illegitimate reason. How does one walk through crop without damage if it extends right up to the fence? Walkers would expect access through deer fences and electric fences. Landowners are concerned that once the precedent is established, what is to stop a subsequent extension from five metres to 20 metres?

What would be the definition of a ‘significant waterway’. It could well become any waterway someone wants access along. A definition of ‘significant waterway’ would be developed via public consultation but our Resource Management Act experience gives major cause for concern

The access agency is to map all existing access ways across public and private land then to prepare maps of all desired new access ways along water margins, regardless of tenure or consequences.

If landowners wanted a waterway margin excluded, they must prepare, fund and present a case to the agency. The agency would then prepare final maps.

The Government proposes some permanent exclusions, but very limited (for example prisons, hospitals, schools during school hours). Landowners may apply for exclusions for up to 90 days a year for activities such as lambing, calving, fawning, roar, and hazardous operations. Costs of applying, notifying and signage would fall on landowners. It is quite conceivable that there could easily be up to 20,000 landowners applying for 60,000 exclusions. The temporary nature of exclusions would give rise to considerable uncertainty.

Management of the stream margin would still be the responsibility of landowners, including signage, litter, and notifying closures.

The key issue for landowners is that these access proposals are confiscation of a property right in land. Land title gives rights to use land, and rights to occupy and determine who else may occupy. The government wants to remove the right to determine who else may occupy the land, and transfer it to the public.

The government has proposed a fund to negotiate access across private land, which is one of the things Federated Farmers asked for. But it is meanwhile proposing to confiscate land off the same private title if it happens to be next to a waterway. It is totally inconsistent to pay compensation for negotiated access across land, but not if that land is along a waterway

If we consider the history of land tenure in New Zealand the land was bought by the Crown from Maori (or sometimes confiscated) then sold to settlers with appropriate title. Where the land was confiscated, this is now being addressed through the Waitangi Tribunal and compensation negotiated. Under the current proposals the Crown is now wishing to confiscate property it had previously sold.

There is debate between government agencies on whether compensation should be payable. However the government appear to have rejected this option.

There is a comprehensive network of unformed paper roads at present and the intention is to publicise their location. Many are impractical or illogical, but there is no proposal to rationalise them or manage them. This responsibility remains with district councils who may see increased demand for use. I suggest you talk to your district council about how they intend to manage issues such as hazards, signage, litter, toilets, surface damage to the actual road, and damage to adjacent property.

The government proposes an access agency but it has not yet been decided which ministry it will fit into, how big it will be, how it will determine significant waterways, how it will determine exclusions or what form it will take.

Last year Federated Farmers saw opportunities in the access changes to;
- rationalise paper roads;
- improve signage of existing access;
- negotiate new access where appropriate
- develop an access code of conduct
- develop more access opportunities through the Resource Management Act.

Federated Farmers proposed a code of conduct and an access trust, both of which would involve and give some ownership of solutions to landowners and recreationalists. But this option has been declined by Government

Federated Farmers is totally opposed to any confiscation of a property right. There has been huge farmer concern about the use of the RMA to restrict our ability to use land, but this proposal goes even further in confiscating property rights and giving them to the public.

Federated Farmers is running a petition opposing confiscation of property rights, which currently has over 19,000 signatures. It is available for signing from all staff and members.

We will continue to explore all means to look for a more constructive approach towards access. It would be very sad if the government's heavy handed approach leads to a breakdown in the traditional goodwill towards providing access.

John Aspinall
Federated Farmers


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