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Reference group set up to study land access issues

A group has been set up to study issues around access to land, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said the group had been set up in response to concerns over the need to clarify and enhance the legal situation pertaining to public access over private land and the foreshore of lakes and the sea and along rivers.

"The legal situation around the 'Queen's Chain' is sometimes confusing, public understanding incomplete, and access over such land sometimes discouraged. People have the impression that the Queen's Chain applies to all beaches and rivers and that simply isn't true. In significant parts of Banks Peninsula and the Marlborough Sounds, for example, there is no right of access to beaches.

"Braided river beds are another example of where there is a lot of confusion about the application of the Queen's Chain."

Mr Sutton said that, as well as the confusion about access rights granted through the Queen's Chain, there were other issues around access generally.

He said that it was important these issues be studied, so that solutions could be found before tensions made situations intractable.

"There are more and more examples popping up of landholders restricting public access to previously accessible rivers, beaches, and mountain land. Sometimes access is allowed in return for payment. Sometimes the new regime is established by an overseas purchaser, although often it is a new New Zealand owner. All this is anathema to a lot of New Zealanders."

Mr Sutton said access was a growing issue.

"What this group will do look at the issue, examining it from every angle, talk to as many people as possible, and work out whether there is a problem, what the nature of that problem is, and what successful solutions there may be."

The group is chaired by John Acland, and its other members are: Sally Millar, Penny Mudford, Claire Mulcock, Gottlieb Braun-Elwart, Bob Cottrell, Edward Ellison, Brian Hayes, Simon Kennett, Kevin Prime, and Eric Roy.

The purpose of the Reference Group is to review: · access to the foreshore of the lakes and the sea and along rivers; · access to public land across private land; and · access onto private rural land to better facilitate public access to and enjoyment of New Zealand's natural environment.

The group is to focus on whether there is sufficient certainty, information, mechanisms and awareness of expected conduct to ensure responsible public access to waterways and private rural land while providing for private land use, both now and in the future.

Mr Sutton said the members of the group had a wide range of knowledge and experience, but were removed from advocacy responsibilities on this issue.

"We're really trying to bring some community wisdom to bear on this to see if anything we can do sensibly about it. The answer may be, at the end of the day, that it is all too difficult."

He said the group was looking at the issue with an open mind and had not been directed to any particular solution. It was expected to consult widely, and also to review practice in other democratic countries.

"I want to make it clear, however, that it is pedestrian access the Government is interested in clarifying. Landholders must retain the right to exclude motor vehicles, guns, dogs, etc.

"We are certainly not about to precipitate any invasion of the privacy of the family home. Also, we are not seeking to extend landowners' liabilities, but appreciate that these and perhaps biosecurity issues may need clarification in the light of any recommendation the reference group may make."

Mr Sutton said Mr Acland had a long association with the primary sector through holding office in Meat New Zealand, Federated Farmers and successful farming and adventure tourism enterprises.

"He is a well-respected member of the community and has the appropriate skills to chair the group."

Sally Millar (Hamilton) has a wide range of experience in the agricultural and horticultural sectors. She has also been involved on the Reference Group for Biodiversity on Private Land. Ms Millar is currently an environmental consultant.

Penny Mudford is currently chief executive of Arbitrators' and Mediators' Institute of New Zealand and director of the New Zealand International Arbitration Centre Limited. Ms Mudford is well recognised for her dispute resolution experience, both in commercial and community settings. She has been an active member of the farming community.

Clare Mulcock has a policy background, focussing on agriculture in the South Island high country and environmental issues. She was involved in the establishment of the Rural Futures Group Ltd and has strong personal connections with the rural community. Ms Mulcock is currently a resource management consultant.

Gottlieb Braun-Elwart is a professional mountain guide.

Bob Cottrell, from Taupo, is of Ngati Kahungungu, Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Awa iwi. Mr Cottrell is a retired farmer who has been heavily involved with various Maori Trusts and in particular Te Awahohonu Forest and Tarawera Station. He brings a central North Island perspective and recent experience as chairman of the Taupo Land Care group.

Edward Ellison (Otakou) is of Ngai Tahu and Te Atiawa decent, currently farming on the Otago Peninsula. He has represented Maori interests on a number of committees and trusts including the Otago University Council, the Otago Regional Council, the Otago Conservation Board and the New Zealand Conservation Authority.

Brian Hayes has an extensive background in land law with 39 years experience in land registration, including as a former Registrar-General of Land. Currently, Mr Hayes is assisting Land Information New Zealand to amend the Land Transfer Act for the first phase of Landonline.

Simon Kennett is a keen mountain-biker and tramper, and has co-authored a guide to mountain-biking routes in New Zealand. He has worked closely with landowners on access. Mr Kennett is a member of the NZ Mountain Biking Association and organises a number of mountain-biking events.

Kevin Prime is of Ngati Hine decent; currently lives at Motatau (Northland) on the family farm. He is highly regarded for his conservation and environmental work, as well as social development of Maori. Mr Prime has worked on advisory groups including the 'Biowhat' project and Ngai Whenua Rahui.

Eric Roy, currently farming near Gore, was a National MP for nine years. He is familiar with parliamentary processes. He would bring a keen perspective of the primary production sector and recreation (especially angling and access to waterways).

Mr Sutton said the review of land access issues was a Labour Party manifesto commitment.

"This reference group is another example of Labour keeping its promises."


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