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Feds Shock, Horror Claims Fail To Impress

Thursday August 19, 2004

Feds Shock, Horror Claims Fail To Impress

Examples by Federated Farmers of urban New Zealanders abusing access to the countryside were a desperate attempt to devalue a very sensible answer to access developed by the “Acland” Access Review Group says Fish & Game New Zealand.

“To cite, as Federated Farmers do, a few anecdotal cases to oppose extending the Queen’s Chain is yet another example of Federated Farmers’ bluster over substance,” says Fish & Game Director Bryce Johnson.

“The Government’s proposals for improving access is a win-win for farmers and outdoor recreationalists. The Feds seem to forget that the Access Review Group was led by a major farming figure, John Acland, and included former staff members of Federated Farmers.”

“For farmers the Government’s proposals mean greater security for them as a new legally enforceable ‘Countryside Code of Conduct’ will greatly strengthen the Trespass Act and address the poor behaviour by the minority who trespass across private land now. Outdoor recreationalists would have to follow standards of behaviour crossing farm land such as avoiding lambing paddocks, and to respect ‘curtilage’, that is keeping away from land surrounding private residences.”

“For the public it would complete the Queen’s Chain to the thirty percent of water bodies which do not have one, and it restores the public rights to access natural water, fish, and wildlife which have been effectively confiscated under the Trespass Act 1980. It is a fair, and balanced approach for the public and landowners,” says Mr Johnson.

The Queen’s Chain is our birthright for all New Zealanders,” he says.

“Claims by Federated Farmers that increasing the Queen’s Chain and public access are taking away private property rights for which land owners should be financially compensated are quite wrong,” says Mr Johnson.

“Land ownership in New Zealand has never conferred an absolute property right. Fish, wildlife and natural water, do not attach to land titles - they are part of the public estate. The general public ought to expect reasonable access.”

“Farmers do not pay a resource rental to the public for the ‘privilege’ of taking public water for private irrigation to improve personal farm income and property values, nor do they pay for the proven adverse effects of environmentally damaging practices. Access without ownership is not confiscation.”

“Some farmers in fact have used the 1980 Trespass Act over the years to confiscate public rights to wilderness fishing and natural waterways, and the public has never been compensated. This strategy restores those public rights. So, if anything, the compensation argument ought to lie in favour of the public, and farmers accepting responsible public access to waterways would be a great start.”

“A declining rural New Zealand ought to be thinking a bit more strategically how it wants to build positive relationships with a growing urban New Zealand.”

Says Mr Johnson: “The Government has had to act. There is ample evidence of access to the countryside being denied on a growing scale. More and more New Zealand countryside is being urbanised. Farm land from Cambridge to Kaitaia has been transformed into lifestyle blocks. More of our countryside is being bought by foreigners. And the existing mechanisms to promote access through DOC, LINZ and local Government, such as reserves through subdivisions, are simply not working.”

ENDS

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