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Labour's Land Access Plan Legalised Theft

Labour's Land Access Plan Legalised Theft

Thursday 26 Aug 2004

Gerry Eckhoff - Speeches - Rural

Speech to Parliament's General Debate; Wednesday August 25, 2004.

During this General Debate I want to talk about an issue of huge importance to rural New Zealanders. They were dismayed about two weeks ago to get `Walking Access in the New Zealand Outdoors', a discussion paper from the office of Jim Sutton.

Just in case anybody is unsure of who Jim Sutton is, he is the advocate within Cabinet for rural New Zealand. What did he do? He put out a discussion paper about how the Government can trample over the rights of every New Zealander who lives in the rural sector who happens to have a waterway.

I ask what Jim Sutton has in common with Robert Mugabe? I will answer my own question: they both take property rights away from white farmers. I emphasise "white farmers", because the strategy proposed in the document will not apply shock, horror, to Maori. That might come as a surprise to Parekura Horomia, who is sitting over there. It will apply only to people of European origin. That is simply an outrage.

But why should we be surprised? I must add this little bit in too; this is a little pearler. In one of the discussion documents that he sent back to Cabinet, the Minister said "This issue around Maori lands needs more work. The rest of it is not a problem, but around Maori land, it needs more work". What is more disturbing about this is that, and I totally agree with a Treasury paper that I have here, this question is not about access, it is about property rights.

I tell the Minister that one either has them, or one does not. It is a bit like being pregnant. One either is, or one is not. One cannot have it both ways. This is about property rights. I would like the Minister to take a call and answer this question. Why is he not taking the land around, for example, the Avon River in Fendalton where, in relation to at least one-third of the properties, one cannot have access, which includes any member of this House, or any member of the public?

Now why does this apply only to rural land? If one wants to be fair about it, why does this Government not apply access to all waterways in this country, which includes the Avon, the Heathcote and the Styx, where one cannot get access to one-third of the properties. The Minister has ruled that out.

I am all for access. ACT is all for access to anywhere, but we have to face a certain reality, and one of the realities is in this very place here. We cannot walk anywhere around this home of democracy, this very House, this very Parliament, where access is strictly controlled. That is for an extremely sensible and valid reason. We cannot these days, with matters of security - both internal and external - have people wandering all over anywhere just because they feel like it.

Yet this Minister of Rural Affairs says it is okay because it is only farmers. He says "There are only 40,000 farmers in this country and we do not get their votes. We are not going to get their votes, so we can take their property rights and we can give them to what is known as the recreational lobby of 350,000 votes".

That is the purpose behind this Bill. It is not about some great notion of ensuring the continuity of access that is given by 92 percent of the farmers in this country. They give access freely and regularly. They do not hinder access at all, but this Government comes along and says "How can we appropriate"? Well that is a nice word for thievery; it is a nice word for steal.


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