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Access leader bars Government entry to property

News Media Release from Public Access New Zealand Inc. 13 June 2005

Access leader bars Government entry to property

A campaign by farmers to close private land to public access for one week is lamentable but understandable, according to Public Access New Zealand. However Federated Farmers, rather than alienating the public by shutting them out, should be targeting the source of the problem - the Government.

PANZ spokesman Bruce Mason says that there is no widespread support within the recreational community for Government's proposal to impose without compensation 'footways' over privately owned water margins. "I don't know of anyone who asked for this measure before it was announced". Angling clubs, potentially the main beneficiaries, have rejected it.

A 5 metre wide right of access along river banks is not going to provide practical access in most situations and will not preclude obstruction by fencing and buildings. Officials have admitted that all Government intends, in effect, is to provide 'paper rights' of access exercisable only if unobstructed. As recently as 10 June Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said, "if you are a deer farmer, you can keep your big fences all the way to the waterway."

"I believe these 'footways' are an election year scam designed to hoodwink urban voters," Mason said.

There are plenty of alternatives that could be taken within existing law to improve public access if Government were serious. These would result in security and practicality of access while avoiding gross infringement of private property rights.

Today, Bruce Mason launched a 'No Government Access' protest on his rural property.

"All Government MPs, their election campaigners, as well as government officials, are barred from my property until further notice". A 'No Government Access' sign is now hung on my front gate along with an orange ribbon. Unlike the Federated Farmers' protest my sign will remain indefinitely until 'footways' are dropped from Government's agenda."

If Government is prepared to entertain gross infringement of private property rights, for no good purpose, it is even more liable to infringe public property.

Labour's failure to honour repeated election pledges to extend the Queen's Chain, consisting of marginal strips, roads and reserves, may be an omen of future intent. A token access provision by way of footways would provide a convenient future pretext for privatisation of the 70 per cent of water margins currently in public ownership. Mr. Sutton wants consistency of access everywhere. This could be achieved by privatising the Queen's Chain and only retaining limited public rights as 'footways'.

Massive public opposition back in 1989 prevented Labour from disposing of marginal strips. There is hope that renewed public concern can do it again.

Everyone concerned about town-country relations and protecting both public and private property is invited to erect a 'No Government Access' sign and orange ribbon on their front gate. The greatest need is in urban areas, especially marginal electorates.

"This is a personal statement, easily taken, and potentially of greater effect than voting. Fear of the electorate prior to an election is a more potent force in shaping political behaviour than afterwards," Mason concluded.


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