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Green Party announces its public access position

24 November 2004

Green Party announces its public access position

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is calling for the restoration of access over public "paper" roads - land surveyed and owned as a road but not formed or marked.

“Too many paper roads are fenced off by adjoining landowners who fail to signpost them. Farmers can graze them at no cost to themselves. While this is fine, assuming exclusive ownership is not," Ms Fitzsimons said.

“Local authorities are responsible for enforcing access over paper roads and putting signs up where needed. However, despite clear penalties within the legislation, this is such a low priority it doesn't usually happen.”

Ms Fitzsimons said the public access across private land debate had become increasingly contentious since the release of the Acland report, produced by a committee chaired by Canterbury farmer John Acland.

“The days when New Zealanders enjoyed a shared culture in favour of public access seem to have gone. Landowners are afraid of crime and interference with stock. People who want to enjoy traditional access to the great outdoors to tramp, fish and mountain bike are seeing more doors closed to them. We need to find a process for negotiation and conflict resolution to restore both access and trust."

Ms Fitzsimons said the Greens wanted to see a commissioner with an independent budget appointed to negotiate public access. They believe the commissioner should be located in the Department of Internal Affairs which was responsible for local government, or in DOC.

The Commissioner's role would be to:

Help restore a culture of public access, building trust among landowners and responsibility among users.

Develop a code of conduct for people using access ways on private land with strong penalties for those who do not respect the land or its owners

Receive complaints about closure of paper roads and work with councils to assist them to enforce the law and provide signs;

Collect information from the public about how common is the refusal of access across private land, whether some parts of the country are particularly affected, and reasons given for refusals;

Negotiate, and hold on behalf of the public, written access agreements with landowners;

Report to Parliament in 2 years on whether refusal of access is so common that there is a need for legislation, and if so what form that legislation should take.

ENDS

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