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Public access to waterways is important

10 June 2005

Public access to waterways is important

The core principle of the Government's walking access policy is that people should have access to their commonly-owned assets of water and the animals living in it, Associate Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said the walking access policy had been worked on for about three years, and had been in Labour's manifesto for the past two elections. The framework of the policy was announced in December, and work is continuing in preparation for a bill being drafted.

"There has been a lot of public consultation, and that feedback has been incorporated into the policy's formulation."

Mr Sutton said it was clear from what the Government was proposing that there would be little or no impact on farming operations from the policy, and the costs of signage, etc, was to be borne by the proposed access commission. Farmers could continue to use their land as they wanted.

"If you are a deer farmer, you can keep your big fences all the way to the waterway."

He said personal safety has been taken into account.

"This is not willy-nilly access, it's keeping people to the publicly owned resources of waterways. It does not go near homes or farm buildings. We do not want people near homes or farm buildings. What Federated Farmers are proposing drives people up to farmhouse doors - a real boon for any criminals. Our policy keeps legitimate walkers away, and highlights any misbehaviour - something Feds should back.

"As for biosecurity risk, roads run along many paddocks now, providing far more access than the proposed walking access policy along rivers.

"There is no evidence that personal safety or biosecurity is compromised by the existing Queen's Chain access, existent throughout the country."

Mr Sutton said it had been liability law for many years now that you are not responsible for someone you do not know is on your land. As well, compensation for demonstrable loss had not been ruled out, contrary to what Federated Farmers was saying.

He said that in New Zealand, water and the animals living in it were public property, owned by all.

"This policy is about access to the publicly-owned resources of water and the animals that live in it. Why don't Feds just come out and say they believe that only the people who own the land should be allowed to walk on it - that they want the Queen's Chain abolished? They need to stop opposing the Govt's plan to expand the national park network in that case."


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