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Progress being made on Walking Access - O'Connor

1 March 2006

Progress being made on Walking Access - O'Connor

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A new consultation document on walking access in rural areas is to be released shortly, Rural Affairs Minister Damien O'Connor said today.

The Walking Access Reference Panel, led by South Canterbury farmer John Acland, met last week with various groups and organisations to discuss progress. The issue refers to the public's right of access to significant areas of coastline, rivers, lakes and other public land.

The groups included: Federated Farmers of New Zealand, Rural Women New Zealand, Local Government New Zealand, Federated Mountain Clubs, Fish and Game New Zealand, Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of New Zealand and Public Access New Zealand.

Mr O'Connor said the panel was pleased with the way the meetings had gone. They yielded a good exchange of ideas and have set the scene for continued constructive discussion, he said.

"It is clear from the feedback I have had that the public wants to find solutions. Each of the organisations agree that something needs to be done, and that this process is a good way forward."

Mr O'Connor said that the panel has approved a consultation document, which would be published within the next four weeks. The document was the next step in the process of engaging New Zealanders to find solutions that were acceptable to all. No firm deadline has been set for a final decision.

The panel's indicative timeline is: Mid-late March: release of the consultation document. Early May: begin a series of meetings around the country (details to be confirmed). Mid-June: submissions on the above document will close. August-October: further discussions with interested parties. Late 2006 (approx): panel to report to the Minister.

Mr Acland said the panel is building on work completed in 2003 and is not going over old ground.

"In our report of three years ago, we highlighted the problems. That was the easier task, now we're looking to New Zealanders to help us come up with solutions."

ENDS

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