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Access Report Confirms Countryside Closure

Access Report Confirms Countryside Closure

The Report, released today, on countryside access by the Government’s Land Access Ministerial Group, shows that the Labour Party was right on target with its election policy on access to the countryside, says Fish & Game New Zealand.

“The Report confirms the problems Labour identified in its pre-election manifesto,” says Fish and Game New Zealand Director, Bryce Johnson. “Now it’s time for the Government to live up to its election commitments and act quickly to implement the Report’s recommendations.”

In its election manifesto Labour promised:

Develop a public access strategy, including extension of the Queen’s Chain and the provision of rural and urban walkways, to ensure New Zealanders have ready and free access to our waterways, coastline and natural areas. Ensure that New Zealand’s natural recreational resources are not captured for exclusive commercial use but remain freely available for reasonable public enjoyment. Protect public fishing and game bird hunting and, if necessary, amend the provisions of the Conservation and Wildlife Acts relating to the sale of fishing and hunting rights to close any loophole that permits the sales of access rights for these activities.

“The Report confirms continued closure of the countryside, and the exclusive capture of access by commercial interests. It also confirms the very important principle that land title does not attach to freshwater, fish or wildlife.”

“What we have been seeing in recent years is the return of feudalism to the countryside and we call upon the Government to act quickly giving full effect to the Report’s recommendations,” says Mr Johnson.

“The Report sends a strong signal to the Government to extend the Queen’s Chain along inland water margins, by not relying on subdivision, but through effective options such as ‘Deeming Provisions’ or ‘Statutory Trusts’. The Ministerial Working Group says that many of the groups and individuals making submissions to it sought the extension of the Queen’s Chain to include all beaches, and rivers and streams of a specified size.”

The Report recommends: Establishment of an “Access Agency” Production of an access “Code of Conduct” Production of more access information Encouragement of negotiated solutions Improving current legislation.

“We believe the Report’s recommendation to establish a proactive ‘Access agency’ to champion public access, and provide leadership, is absolutely critical, and the Government needs to move quickly to set up such a body and see that it is well resourced.”

“An Access Agency must have the legal authority to effectively deal with Local Government and get them to identify and open up ‘paper roads’, and produce access signage.”

“Local Government has considerable resources, powers, and responsibilities under the Resource Management Act, and their performance on countryside access is poor. The Report says that territorial authorities have not made public access to marine areas or lakes or rivers a priority, despite enhancement of public access being stipulated under Section 6 (d) of the Act. They must be held to account. We are pleased to see that the Report calls for a review to see if the access provisions of the Resource Management Act have been satisfactorily implemented.”

“We are also pleased to see the Report highlights the importance of maps, signposts and other easily accessible information for the recreational user. The Government needs to direct LINZ to provide mapping information that is accessible and of low cost to the public.”

“There are problems with the Health and Safety in Employment, Forest and Rural Fires and Trespass Acts. The Government needs to commit itself to a prompt clean-up of these issues with these pieces of legislation.”

“This Report is a good beginning to improve public access to the countryside, but it is only a beginning and New Zealand’s 150,000 freshwater anglers and game bird hunters will be watching progress closely.”

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