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High Country Farmers Back Access Plan

11 June 2004 PR 124/04
High Country Farmers Back Access Plan

South Island high country farmers have strongly backed a Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc) plan to further develop a code of conduct for recreational access over private land.

The proposed code will build on generally good relations between the recreational public and landowners, said John Aspinall, the Federation's spokesman on land access.

"High country farmers gave Federated Farmers a strong mandate to continue working with landowners and recreational groups to develop the joint code," Mr Aspinall said.

Members of the South Island High Country industry group of Federated Farmers gave their backing at their annual conference in Queenstown.

The draft is an expanded version of a code developed in 1989 between high country farmers and Public Access New Zealand, a coalition of recreational users.

Mr Aspinall, a high country farmer, said the Federation will continue consulting recreation groups on whether the proposed code fits their needs.

While backing the code, high country farmers expressed grave concern about any government law change which could give the public rights of access but not compensate farmers for loss of privacy and property rights.

Farmers believe that current public access ways such as 'paper roads' - roads that exist on paper but are not built or surveyed -- and riparian strips along waterways need to be better defined and marked so people know where to access private land.

To help provide access, Federated Farmers has suggested forming an access trust to identify and negotiate new access opportunities and manage their ongoing use. The trust could be overseen by trustees representing landowners, recreational access groups, and the government. It could be funded by the government, recreational clubs and individual subscriptions.

Much discussion at the conference centred on the huge goodwill between landowners and recreational users. Federated Farmers surveys indicate that more than 90 percent of members allow public access, Mr Aspinall said.

High country farmers urged the government against introducing heavy handed legislation that would destroy goodwill and force landowners to limit access to safeguard their families' security.

The following is the draft code of conduct for foot access across private land

Code Of Conduct

All Parties
All parties to this code agree that the landowner or leaseholder holds the legal rights to determine who enters the land, at what time, for what reason and under what conditions.

All parties further agree that where walkways, access easements, marginal strips, public roads, esplanade reserves or strips exist, that public foot access is available under the terms and conditions of the relevant legislation or agreement. This does not preclude the right of authorities to close some access ways where a more practical legal access route is negotiated, or where temporary hazards may exist.

All parties acknowledge the goodwill that currently exists between landholders and recreational users, and pledge to build on this goodwill.

This code applies to non-commercial foot access only. It does not include dogs, firearms, hunting or cycles.

Recreational Users
The recreational users groups will urge and educate members to respect the property and rights of landholders and the needs of the environment, disease management and food safety issues.

In particular, recreational user groups will promote the following standards of care for property and the environment.

- Request permission before entering freehold or leasehold land for any purpose.
- Where consent is granted, users will restrict their activities to those for which consent has been granted.
- If consent is declined, accept this with good grace.
- Respect livestock and offer minimal disturbance.
- Walk around rather than through crops.
- Leave all gates as found.
- Under no circumstances damage fences, huts or other property.
- Use gates or go through fence wires, rather than climbing over and stretching wires.
- Obtain permission before using huts and replace any firewood used.
- Remove all litter and rubbish the user is responsible for.
- Light no fires other than with permission or in designated fireplaces.
- Ensure any fires are fully extinguished before leaving.
- Bury away from waterways or remove all toilet waste.
- Accept responsibility for avoiding hazards and be mindful that in certain circumstances any animals can be unpredictable e.g. stags during roar, cows at calving.
- Ensure footwear and gear is clean to prevent weed and disease spread.
- Report breaches of this code or suspicious circumstances to the landowner as soon as practicable.
Members of the public accessing private land for recreational purposes acknowledge that they are totally responsible for their own safety and cannot claim against the landowner as a consequence of accident or injury.

Federated Farmers of New Zealand acknowledges the tradition of consent frequently being granted for reasonable requests for foot access across farmland. Federated Farmers respectfully suggests members consider reasonable requests for foot access, particularly through farmland to public lands. However, the decision clearly lies with the landholder.

If access is declined FFNZ urges that the reasons be explained clearly and courteously.

In considering requests for access, the landholder needs to consider the following aspects:
- Is the request bona fide (the reason for which access is requested)
- Is the request from members of a reputable club or organisation.
- Implications of possible hazards (unstable structures, aggressive animals, electric fences, damage to tracks, poison baits,)
- Disturbance to stock (lambing, calving, fawning, settling stock on a block)
- Biosecurity aspects (beef measles, giardia)
- Risk of fire.
- Safety of recreationalists (severe weather warnings).


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