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Public Access Action Welcomed

Public Access Action Welcomed

Weekend news paper reports of the Government’s intention to legislate for improved public access to rivers, lakes and the coast all sound like “good news” to Fish & Game New Zealand, which has been lobbying for improved public access to the great outdoors.

“It is great to see the Government is going to do something about the growing problem of Kiwis being shut out of their own country by a those land owners and tourism operators who are misusing the Trespass Act to exclusively capture the wildlife, the freshwater fisheries and natural waterways, for exclusive private or commercial use”, says Bryce Johnson, Director of Fish & Game New Zealand.

“These particular natural resources do not attach to land title under New Zealand law, but belong to the public. As such, it is not unreasonable for the general public to expect to have fair and reasonable ‘as-of-right’ access to them “.

The weekend reports indicate that the Government is looking at stronger compliance provisions in law to better ensure responsible behaviour, as the quid pro quo for the improved public access.

“I think all responsible outdoor recreationists would welcome a legally based “code of behaviour”, complete with offence provisions, to underpin any genuinely improved as-of-right public access, both along the margins of lakes and rivers that presently don’t have a Queens Chain and along marked access ways across private land to get to those water body margins”, says Bryce Johnson.

Reported comments by Federated Farmers president Tom Lambie that the government was ‘overturning a foundation stone of society’ were dismissed by Fish & Game as a gross exaggeration.

“If any foundation stone of New Zealand society needs to be re-overturned it is the up-side-down one that says we don’t want a feudal system of land ownership in New Zealand, where the landed gentry own and control the access to the wildlife, the fisheries and the rivers and lakes. New Zealand has built its international identity around being an egalitarian and open society, including its general attitude to access to the great outdoors”.

“Jim Sutton’s access inquiry is not an attack on farmer’s property rights, as the Treasury is reported as saying. Rather, it is about the restoration of the ‘public property right’ over wildlife, fisheries and natural water, which has been gradually expropriated over time”.

“The Federated Farmers / Treasury reaction is all the more curious given that a number of farmers and ex-Federated Farmers staff were on the actual Ministerial Review Committee that produced the excellent report to which the Federation is now so vehemently opposed”.

“Roll on the replacement of ‘Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted’ signs with ‘Public Access Welcomed’ signs. It has to be good for rural / urban relations.”

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