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Hold Fire On 'Right-to-Roam' Plans

5 December 2003
PR 249/2003
Hold Fire On 'Right-to-Roam' Plans

Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc) says that recommendations of the Land Access Ministerial Reference Group should temporarily be put on hold.

The extra time would allow a proper assessment of current access to public places to be balanced against the impact on the private sector and the environment, said John Aspinall, a member of the Federation's National Board.

"Federated Farmers is strongly critical of the proposals, which are not balanced or valid," Mr Aspinall said.

Federated Farmers, New Zealand's premier rural organisation with more than 18,000 members, today lodged its final submission to the reference group. It concludes that access should continue to be at the discretion of landowners.

The submission was lodged with more than 100 individual submissions from farmers airing access horror stories of theft, poaching, open-air sex, human excrement, used tampons, and stock losses (see quotes below).

"These irresponsible users highlight the necessity for farmers to have the final say on whom can enter their properties, when and under what conditions," said Mr Aspinall.

"Many of these incidents would make city dwellers gag on their lattes if it happened in their own backyard," he said.

The reference group has prepared a report for the Government to "clarify and enhance the legal situation relating to public walking access over private land, along riverbanks and the foreshores of lakes and the sea".

Fearing that the right to control access over private land is under challenge, farmers oppose a “right to roam” across rural New Zealand.

"Government policy must not be driven by a small group who demand access over private land as an automatic right. Everyone wants to be able to access parks, fishing and wildlife areas that are owned by the public, but private property is different," Mr Aspinall said.

The current culture -- whereby people wishing to cross or access private property seek permission -- works. The vast majority of farmers allow access if asked. For courteous, responsible users, there is no lack of access to private property.

But discourteous, irresponsible users do not deserve access.

"Imposing a public right of access through legislation risks delivering the perverse outcome of legitimising bad behaviour, and giving greater protection and opportunities for those accessing land for illegal, unsafe and inappropriate activities," Mr Aspinall said.

The submission says: "Federated Farmers recommends that all of the Ministerial Reference Group Report recommendations be put on hold until a proper assessment is made of the availability of public access to public areas and this availability assessed against its impact on private individuals, private business and the environment."

********

The following are quotes from farmers about the problems of public access. The quotes were taken directly from individual submissions to Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

"People will crap within 50 metres of a toilet. The farm dogs love to roll in it. At the end of the day when I unclip their neck chains, I get it all over my hands."

"People have left used tampons in our pump shed…People are having sex publicly. It's not ideal for our family, especially children, to witness. They leave used condoms,"

"Gates were left open and a thousand ewes destroyed a crop of wheat."

"Drinking parties, fires, hooning on motorbikes, fences cut for easier access."

“In the past two years we have had the locked dairy shed burgled and tools and the water blaster taken, a large boat on a trailer stolen, two ATV’s, and one trailer taken from a locked shed…and $1200 worth of petrol stolen.”

“People accessed our property without permission in order to access the river. Visitors disconnected the irrigation system.”

“Poachers have shot deer from our deer farm, cattle from the back of the farm, and even pets.”

“We live in a very scenic spot and people often leave their cars and walk to our headland. Most never get permission and we are unaware of their presence. Our biggest loss was when a gate was left open enabling a $6,500 bull to get in to a paddock where there are some steep cliffs. He fell to his death.”

"I was confronted by a gun-carrying duck shooter with a dog, who argued he had the right to shoot and retrieve anything he shot. It was very scary, as I was a woman on my own on the farm,"

"We have a 20 hectare vineyard bordered at one end by a river….All white baiters who seek permission have been allowed except one who demanded the right and who was abusive. We have had implement sheds burgled several times and petrol stolen. Our nine-year old daughter rides her pony around the property, especially near the river because it is away from the road, but we have to accompany her at all times for fear of 'stranger danger'."

“Try to make a townie understand that at lambing, a merino ewe will dump her lamb when under stress.”

“I have for 30-odd years granted access to my property for trampers, hunters and have never had a problem with those who have first sought permission. First timers always have property boundaries and hazards pointed out. Those seeking permission for access have generally understood when at certain times of the year this may not have been granted. Freeing up access to private land would in my opinion be a recipe for disaster.”

“We have found people camping at night with fires going in high fire danger areas.”

“Our water supply is gravity fed from the hills above the house. We would not be at all happy with a ‘right to roam’ law which could lead to contamination of our water supply.”

"I am unhappy that our farm is listed in tramping books without our permission. Someone is making money off us."

ENDS

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