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Consultation on walking access begins

Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton is seeking public feedback on proposals to clarify and enhance the legal situation relating to public walking access over private land, along riverbanks and the foreshores of lakes and the sea.

The Government has organised a series of public consultation meetings and hui around New Zealand following the recent release of the report of the Land Access Ministerial Reference Group.

Mr Sutton said, "The consultation will be an opportunity for anyone to tell the Government their views on walking access to land."

The Ministerial Reference Group found that the current law and institutional arrangements are inadequate to meet public expectations for access in today's society.

It found that there is a lack of clarity and a gap between expectations and understanding of those seeking access and those providing access to recreational areas - particularly where it involves crossing private land.

Mr Sutton said, "The common belief by most New Zealanders is that the Queen's Chain gives us the legal right to access rivers, lakes and the sea. The reality is that there are many wilderness areas and parts of rivers and the seashore that people cannot get access to because of the ad hoc legal situation around the country.”

Some members of the former Land Access Ministerial Reference Group, including the former Chairman John Acland, will attend the meetings to explain the group's proposals.

The proposals include ideas such as the formation of a New Zealand Access Strategy, with five objectives to:

· Strengthen leadership, to provide direction for, and coordination of, access arrangements nationwide; · Provide greater clarity and certainty of access by locating and publicising what is acceptable and where it may occur; ·

· Affirm the validity and embrace the ethos of the Queen's Chain by providing mechanisms for its promotion and enhancement; ·

· Encourage negotiated solutions for access across private land; and

· Find ways to improve current legislation provisions for access.

Mr Sutton says this is about securing access to the outdoors in the long term but he emphasises the report does not set out Government policy. It is a separate issue to the Government's current consultation on New Zealand's foreshore and seabed.

Public meetings are as follows:

23 September Taupo

24 September Rotorua

29 September Greymouth

30 September Christchurch

3 October Geraldine

7 October Auckland (Waitakere)

8 October Auckland (North Shore)

9 October Auckland Central

9 October Gisborne

10 October Napier

13 October Dunedin

14 October Cromwell

14 October Blenheim

15 October Invercargill

15 October Nelson

16 October Wellington

17 October Masterton

20 October Hamilton

21 October New Plymouth

21 October Whitianga

22 October Tauranga

22 October Palmerston North

29 October Whangarei

29 October Pahia

30 October Kaitaia

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