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Government Listens With One Ear

22 December 2004

Government Listens With One Ear

The government has acknowledged some of the rural sector's concerns about public access over private property but has ignored many others, said John Aspinall, a National Board member of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

His comments follow the government flagging changes to access laws to remove the right of landowners to determine who can enter their land.

"The government claims that its reforms are not a 'right-to-roam' but in many respects that is exactly what they are. Farmers welcome most people on to their land, but these reforms will allow anyone no matter their intent and character to walk on private property, day or night, with few restrictions," he said.

"Farmers welcome that the government has left open the door to compensation for seizing their property rights, but are disappointed that the package is not yet ready despite two years of work before today's announcement.

"The government has not consulted with farmers while it developed this package over the last six months, but we look forward to engaging with government over these controversial reforms.

"The impact of public access at any time on farmers has been glossed over. There are serious implications for the welfare of animals and heightened risks of pests and diseases being brought on to farms, which are run as businesses and not scenic spots for teenagers wanting a midnight swim.

"We welcome the ability for farmers to apply for exemptions. But it's not good enough to provide exemptions when all the costs and obligations of applying them are lumped on the landowner.

"New Zealanders have plenty of access to waterways on public land, and the government has yet to demonstrate there is a problem with access to private land. Nearly all farmers give access to walkers and others if first asked, but they vehemently object to the government using legislation to remove the right to say no.

"We have always said that improved access should be achieved through negotiation followed by compensation, rather than legislation. The high cost imposed on individual farmers must be balanced with individual compensation. Only the commitment to reasonable compensation will reduce farmer outrage," he said.

Federated Farmers makes no excuses for forcefully opposing the government using the heavy hand of legislation to building pedestrian highways over their land. That opposition will continue until the government listens with both ears, Mr Aspinall said.

ENDS

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