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Govt Pleasing no-one with Public Access Proposals

Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of New Zealand Inc

12 June 2005 MEDIA RELEASE

Govt Pleasing no-one with Its Public Access Proposals

The Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations (CORANZ) wants Government to think again on its public access proposals, focussed primarily on waterway margins. “The vast bulk of outdoor recreationists won’t get their access problems addressed by what Minister Jim Sutton is proposing” CORANZ spokesman Dr Hugh Barr says.

“There are three problems with Government’s draft proposals” Dr Barr said. “First, they are not a fair, general and lasting solution to public access issues in the outdoors. Nor do they truly extend the Queen’s Chain, as promised in Labour’s 1999 Election policy. They are primarily aimed only at walking freshwater anglers, some 150,000 recreationists.

The vast bulk of the more than a million outdoor recreationists are ignored. These include hunters, mountainbikers, people with dogs, people wanting access to enclaves of public lands, and drivers. And landowners are not happy to say the least.

Second New Zealand’s main mechanisms for permanent public access rely on public ownership of land. The government’s “footways” proposals are directly counter to this approach. Most opposition to “footways” stems from this fact. First from landowners, by imposing access on them without buying a property right. Second with recreationists, because of the impermanence, uncertainty and weakness of the mechanisms available without public land ownership.

So the Government’s proposals have little support, or active opposition, outside Fish and Game circles.”

“Third, the access method proposed, “footways”, is not secure” Dr Barr said. “They can be closed for significant times, or blocked by fences and other obstacles. They may not actually work at all. “We are concerned that Government is botching this major opportunity to set up an access improvement process for the long term” Dr Barr said.

“There are at least three major government departments, Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), DOC and the Ministry for the Environment, and all of local government with public access responsibilities. But few have any enthusiasm, funds or apparent interest in solving access issues.”

“We see the best solution as a return to public ownership, negotiation, and better information. This would be fair to both landowners and all recreationists. It would involve a core structure of an independent Public Access Commissioner, and an associated Public Access Enhancement Fund. Government mentions such structures in its proposals. But this general approach seems to have been derailed by “footways”.

The Commissioner would provide leadership and co-ordination. There are many access issues he could address immediately. The Fund would compare and fund solutions to access problems, including land purchase, alternative solutions, and better public access information eg on maps and brochures.

This would provide an ongoing solution to public access issues, and would apply equally to the needs of all recreational users” Dr Barr said. “Government must think again about why its worthy access intentions have met so much opposition. It needs to return to broader based and proven alternatives, not “footways”.


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