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Greens celebrate public access strategy

22 December 2004

Greens celebrate move to adopt its public access stance

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is relieved the Government has seen the sense in her recent proposal for a new agency to define and further negotiate public access to and along waterways.

Last month, Ms Fitzsimons urged the Government to find a process for negotiation and conflict resolution to restore both access and trust among the opposing parties - landowners afraid of crime and interference with stock, and people wanting to enjoy traditional access to the great outdoors.

The Greens announced a policy for an access commissioner with a budget to locate and mark paper roads, ensure they are not blocked, develop a code of public conduct for walkers and negotiate access routes. These provisions have been adopted by the Government.

"Its intention to create a national agency charged with determining where public access already exists and assisting with marking footpaths is very positive. We agree that such an agency should encourage negotiation where there is no right of way, rather than taking a heavy-handed approach.

"I'm comfortable with the Government's position that the new access to waterways is for walkers only. It is hard to argue that vehicles, people with dogs and people with guns should enter private land without the express permission of the landholders.

"It is particularly important after the anguish of the foreshore and seabed legislation that Maori landowners have the opportunity to exclude access to sites of special significance such as urupa and that they are involved in a process that will negotiate the best outcome.

The Greens' policy suggested that the commissioner should be located either in the Department of Internal Affairs which was responsible for local government, or in DOC and that 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.


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