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Barbara Stuart on allowing public access on farmland
Barbara Stuart and her husband Ian own Cable Bay Station near Nelson. They have shared the spectacular scenery and beach access on their land with locals and tourists for decades.
“We’ve had a walkway for over 30 years. My father-in-law Fred, and Ian were the ones who were first approached by the Walkways Commission [a predecessor of the Walking Access Commission]. And they were pretty chuffed. To them, it was ‘our walkway has been selected – our over-the-hill-trip that people rang us to do’.”
“For it to become a public walkway, my father-in-law Fred’s attitude was, he was quite proud. He enjoyed sharing the walkway, and he enjoyed meeting people who were doing it.”
Fred and his mother Tess were keepers of the history of the old Cable Bay Station. When Barbara and Ian took on the farm they carried on those values, which she describes as “very much the old Kiwi way”.
“After about twenty years we were looking at environmental impacts on the farm. We dropped 1000 stock units and planted pine trees. And of course, this gave us less income on an annual basis because it was a long-term investment.”
“We thought, with the popularity of the walkway, there was an opportunity on a historical site by the sea. So that was the benefit. We now have a small campground and café that we have been able to leverage off the historic site and the walkway.”
The Stuarts have a long and warm relationship with the Department of Conservation. DOC regularly sprays the track for weeds and keep it tidy. The track closes each year from 1 August to 10 October to keep people away from cows with their new-born calves. The Stuarts and DOC collaborate on safety too, such as last summer, during the Nelson fires, when they closed the track to keep people and the track safe.
“Nelson couldn’t cope with any more fires!” says Barbara.
Barbara says farmers should look at the opportunities that could come from having public access.
“Particularly if your farm is close to an urban setting. Even an hour or two-hour walk across private land is what people are looking for these days. They are looking for short walks that are within cooee of a reasonably sized township.”
Barbara says every farmer has individual circumstances. They need to do their homework, but some can leverage off the opportunity from public access.
“It seems to be you get hubs now – we’ve got kayaking nearby, people who have an adventure park, horse-riding and motorbikes on nearby properties. I’ve noticed that small towns around the top of the South Island people do a lot of cycling these days. So opening up a walkway or cycleway track is a goer really.”