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Coastal and river access secured

Public Access New Zealand


20 July 2005

Coastal and river access secured

Objectors to a Waitaki District Council decision to stop public road access to the mouth of the Shag River, near Palmerston in East Otago, welcome an Environment Court decision resulting from agreement being reached between the parties. The Court has allowed stopping and disposal of an unformed road, conditional on alternative public access being provided along the north bank of the river and along the coast.

In May 2002 the Council resolved to dispose to the adjoining landowner the seaward portion of Bushey Park Road and abutting side roads. Five objections were made. Four of these were heard in June 2003. The Department of Conservation withdrew their objection prior to the hearing. In August 2003 the Council confirmed its original decision to stop the road. The remaining objections were referred to the Environment Court for determination.

DOC secured by private agreement access for themselves to the Onewhenua Historic Reserve at the mouth of the Shag River but disappointingly failed to pursue public access to this public reserve and coast.

The remaining objectors were Mr. John McGann of Oamaru, Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society (Dunedin Branch), and Public Access New Zealand. The objectors considered that the legal road alignment was capable of development by bridging and board walking, however funding for this was not forthcoming. The objectors entered into negotiations with Stanfield's Bushey Park Limited and the District Council to secure alternative access.

Recreation and conservation groups have shown that they will not take lying down the closure of public roads by councils, merely for the convenience of neighbouring landowners. Road stopping will only be countenanced where there are alternatives on offer that provide secure, permanent and practical public access.

The objectors' negotiator, Bruce Mason of PANZ, commented that the results obtained would not have occurred without statutory rights of public objection and appeal against road stopping. It is crucial that such rights remain.

He also said that the results demonstrate that there are practical ways to secure public access using existing means, and that the Government's proposed 'footways' along private water margins are by no means a complete solution to access problems. It shows that existing legal access protection needs to be an integral part of any national strategy to improve public access.

Background and Access Detail

Environment Court Decision C100/2005, 18 July 2005

Historically Bushey Park Road has been used for access to the Shag estuary and the beach at the river mouth. The route crosses old river channels, which were previously partly bridged, and salt marshes. Destruction of a bridge many years ago required deviation onto an alternative track on private land. In recent years obtaining permission for public access has been difficult. Also deer fences obstructed the legal road.

The settlement provides for continuous public foot access downstream from the old State Highway 1 bridge along the north bank of the Shag River and estuary to Shag Point. This will be on a mix of existing esplanade strips and recreation reserve, and new esplanade strips on two properties.

The new esplanade strips will be between 5 and 30 metres wide to ensure practical access, and will require erection of gates or stiles and sign posting. Dogs, firearms, camping, and vehicles are prohibited. So too is causing any obstruction to public access. There is no provision for closure to the public. There is a right for the public to assert passage at any time. The strips will be binding on successors in title.

There will also be public foot access north along the coast from Stony Creek-Anderson's Lagoon to the Shag River mouth. An existing legal road along the cliffs will be widened over much of its length to provide safe and practical access. Access will continue along the beach to the mouth of the Shag. Stanfield's Bushey Park Limited have agreed to erect a stairway up the cliffs at the southern end, and pedestrian stiles.


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