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Walking access builds understanding between rural and urban NZ
A passion for tramping, a background in farming and a shared family interest in fishing and hunting means the New Zealand Walking Access Commission's newest regional field advisor, Felicity Brough has a good grasp on the range of issues that can arise over public access.
The Aria sheep and beef farmer believes with an ever-widening gap between rural and urban New Zealanders the Commission plays a crucial role by assisting with dispute resolution, negotiating new walking access, and overseeing the Outdoor Access Code.
“People don't have friends in the country like they used to. This disconnect can create problems. Farmers need town-people to understand their lifestyle and business issues. If there is no understanding of farming then there is no empathy and that is when disputes arise, especially at lambing time or with people taking dogs onto farmland.
“As a tramper I want to go places and as a farmer I want people to go respectfully. It can be a real balancing act. So it is about making sure that the access arrangements are clear. Public access needs clear signage so there is a good understanding of where the public can go and whether they can take dogs or use a rifle.
“The Commission's role is to acquire and protect enduring public access. Often field officers are the ones to negotiate access, helping to resolve disputes or misunderstandings in regards to access arrangements," Felicity says.
Felicity is the Commission's Waikato regional field advisor, with an area boundary reaching north to Pukekohe, and taking in Thames, Coromandel, and Matamata in the east. She also covers Waipa, Waitomo, Otorohanga, and her area of responsibility extends as far south as Taumarunui.