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Attention Welcome But New Access Mechanism Flawed

Public Access New Zealand
News Media Release
22 December 2004

Government attention welcome but new access mechanism flawed

Government should get it's own house in order before imposing new and untested public access mechanisms over private land. This is the view of national outdoor recreation advocate Public Access New Zealand.

The seventy percent of shorelines and riverbanks with some kind of public reservation need immediate government attention to improve their suitability for recreation, rather than providing theoretical access over the 30 per cent in private ownership. The latter is the sole focus for today's Government access package.

"The Government's approach reflects a simplistic and flawed view of public recreational needs. Officials and Ministers have distilled their attention to just providing 'access' while ignoring the obvious implications of private ownership and incompatible land use", PANZ spokesman Bruce Mason said.

The proposed access exclusion from within 50 metres of houses and 20 metres of other buildings near waterways will inevitably result on a rush of new buildings that will thwart government's stated intention of providing public access. A continuation of 'normal' farming practices will result in deer fences appearing across riverbanks and extending inland at least 20 metres. Government's planned right of diversion for this distance to get past obstructions may count for little.

However PANZ does not believe that greater impositions of land use controls, without commensurate compensation, should be imposed over private land to make up for the deficiencies in Government's approach.

What is needed is for Government to honour its pledges of the last two elections to "extend the Queen's Chain", not to "review" the chain as they now misrepresent. The Queen's Chain consists of public reserves and not just a right of access.

Meanwhile officials in DOC and Land Information New Zealand fail to honour existing legal requirements to create and identify marginal strips when Crown land is freeholded. Given the pace of tenure review in the South Island high country Ministers' attention should be directed to ensuring that existing laws are honoured not ignored. Similarly many local authorities are appropriating 'reserves contributions' in the form of money rather than creating esplanade reserves from subdivisions. This requires immediate attention from Government.

History has demonstrated that public reserves provide the only effective prevention of private encroachment and any security of public use and enjoyment.

The Government's approach is almost a time-warp view of rural New Zealand - that the current open space will always remain so and that no subdivision and urbanisation will occur in future. The huge and growing interest in subdivision along any water margin, obvious to all, is ignored by the Government's announcement. Given this tide of development, without public open space provision Government's new walking paths over private land will likely prove to be an ineffectual access provision.

PANZ however welcomes other aspects of the Government package like improved public information. There is a pressing need for this, however the failure to address easily fixed deficiencies in existing access mechanisms is a serious omission, Mr. Mason concluded.

Last year PANZ presented to Government 40 actions that could be taken to improve public access everywhere and not just to waterways. Most of these could be affected with only minor law changes. With the exception of improved public information these possibilities have been so far ignored by Government.

PANZ intends contributing to the select committee process with a view to rectifying any deficiencies in Government's proposals.

END

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