Public access to your farmland – the continuing discussion……

The debate rages over public access to farmland. This debate has been temporarily silenced by the Labour government, as they go into the election. They have realised that the landowners don't want public access to their land. The government have quietened it down, but it will be back on the agenda as soon as they go back into power, if they do - watch this space.

The government talk about a consultative process, where they will talk to the farmers, and everyone will have their say.

So how does it really look? The public already have access to 45% of New Zealand across existing road, beaches, public walkways, paper roads, and Queens Chain.

92% of all farmers give access to land on request, and the high country farmers give access to 94% of New Zealand on request, so where is the problem?

The system works well, so why do we have to change it, and there doesn't seem to be any good reason to. At the recent Rural Law conference in Christchurch, John Aspen talked about land access and raised some interesting points.

The government strategy of 'wander at will' was strongly opposed, including the action orange. There is a 5 meter access strip proposed, which the public will automatically have right to, and it will give foot access over all significant water ways, which also includes bush and other areas.

The public are not allowed to take dogs, firearms, or go camping on the properties. The 5 meter access strip could be extended up to 20 meters in difficult terrain. Farmers could apply for a 90 day exemption for calving and lambing.

The application of signage and rubbish is your responsibility as the land owner, not the government. One of the key points that was discussed, is the removal of human waste, and that's not pretty. Imagine people excreting and urinating on your farmland, and the disease issues.

The farmers were concerned at the legislative removal of property rights, and given to a third party, i.e. the public.

Some of the problems that they envisage were:
  • Personal security – a big one
  • Stock security – another big issue
  • Land owners left with a lot of cost - important
It was discussed that New Zealand is doing a great job bringing tourist to New Zealand, but what do you do with them once you get them here.

We need a code of conduct for the visitors, but how do you manage them. Maybe they need a visitors' protocol in dos and don'ts on farm land.

They are looking at setting up an access fund in a trust to negotiate and manage access with land owner. It would be bureaucrats in Wellington, probably telling the farmers what they can and can't do.

The other problem is that the tourists are still bringing food into New Zealand, and farmers see the bio-security risk as one of the major problems. – It is.

In summary, the debate continues on land access. The farmers and landowners and landowners don't want it, as don't a lot of the Labour Party either. The present system works quite adequately, and everyone has got access to what they want, and the consultative process with the farmer works well. The farmer knows who is on his farm at any time.

Some of the numbers discussed in terms of public access onto some of the larger stations in the South Island runs into hundreds per day, and those farmers are quite happy to manage the process. Imagine if there was no need to request to access to property, then the problems would really start to mount up.

Farmers need to be well aware of the issues around this proposal, and be ery vocal about what could be one of the worst pieces of legislation to affect farmers' property rights in decades.

Why should we change what's already working well?


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