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Maori Party barking up the wrong tree

Maori Party barking up the wrong tree

The walking access policy did not affect the title of property nor the use of land, Associate Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton rubbished opponents' claim that the proposal to have a five-metre walking accessway along significant waterways was a "landgrab" or "confiscation".

He emphasised that the policy dovetailed with the principles and objectivess of Te Ture Whenua Maori Act, which were to retain Maori land and to ensure Maori could use and develop their land. It did not breach the Treaty of Waitangi.

"The title to the walkway remains in the landowner's possession, and farmers can carry out whatever farming or other land use they might wish to do. Pretty odd sort of landgrab!"

Mr Sutton said the policy, announced in December, had been quite clear ? it is not right to roam, wander at will, or access across privately owned land.

"To say so is simply scaremongering and wrong. You cannot walk across a paddock to get to the waterway. The policy does not change current access provisions through esplanade strips and other mechanisms, nor does it change access provisions in settlements with iwi, such as that at Lake Taupo as decided in the settlement with Tuwharetoa."

Mr Sutton said the Labour Government has worked hard since being elected to forge a strong cultural identity for all New Zealanders.

"Part of that identity ? Maori and Pakeha - is our relationship with the land, and important features such as lakes, rivers and beaches.

"Under New Zealand law, water and the animals living in it are commonly-owned assets. We believe that all New Zealanders should have access to these assets, and this has been part of our manifesto for the past two elections. This policy is to ensure the New Zealand way of life is maintained in the future. Access to the publicly-owned resources of water is something most New Zealanders see as important."

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