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Government's public access plan "pie in the sky"


Public Access New Zealand INCORPORATED
R D 1 Omakau 9182
Central Otago
New Zealand

Thursday, 23 January 2003

NEWS MEDIA RELEASE

Government's public access plan "pie in the sky"

While welcoming Government's initiative to develop a strategy to improve public access to the countryside, Public Access New Zealand is most concerned about the terms of reference and the composition of the panel government has appointed for the task.

PANZ spokesman, Bruce Mason was responding to the announcement by Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton of a Reference Group to study land access issues.

Mr. Mason said that the terms are too broad, trying to encompass access over private land as well as over public land. The set of rights and values are vastly different, with the issues surrounding private land political dynamite. "There is a very strong private property right ethos surrounding private land in New Zealand, reinforced by draconian trespass laws. Whereas on public lands, the public have statutory and common law rights of use, without trespass".

A danger arising from the government exercise is that a common standard of access will be sought irrespective of land tenure. The public cannot expect the same sort of rights over private land that they currently enjoy over public lands. This is also politically unattainable. A common standard of access acceptable to rural landholders will inevitably result in loss of existing rights over public lands, including roads. This is already hinted at by the Group being confined to advocating pedestrian access only.

"The exercise is pie in the sky stuff with minimal prospect of workable outcomes acceptable to the wider community. We hope that it is not a ploy for Government to do nothing in a tangible sense to improve public access during its current term".

The Reference Group has a predominance of farming interests, and minimal recreational presence. The latter is most disappointing given its purpose. "We don't believe that, even given fine intentions by all involved, that there is the knowledge and skills present to adequately address this growing public issue. A public process is necessary to ensure that Government is properly advised on the current access situation and what might be needed to improve it.

PANZ is currently developing concrete proposals for improvement of the Queen's Chain and public roads that it will be putting before Government. This will enable Government, if it so wishes, to fulfil its election promises in the event that the new strategy comes to nothing.

Public Access New Zealand is a charitable trust formed in 1992. The objects are the preservation and improvement of public access to public lands, waters, and the countryside, through retention in public ownership of resources of value for recreation. PANZ is supported by a diverse range of land, freshwater, marine, and conservation groups (approximately 200) and 800 individuals. PANZ is committed to resist private predation of the public interest.

END

Bruce Mason 03 447 3554 panz@es.co.nz


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