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Enhancing access through negotiation
New Zealanders are lucky to have a heritage of access to the outdoors. Not only do we have a historic network of public reserve land alongside some of our best rivers and much of the coast, but we also have a longstanding tradition whereby landholders generally grant permission to those who ask to cross their private land.
But despite this heritage and the best of intentions, disputes over access still arise. Over the past 12 months more than 50 access disputes have been lodged with the Commission, ranging from disputes over access on unformed legal roads to appeals for access across private land to desirable outdoor spots.
Resolving these issues can be complex and time consuming. Sometimes disputes are longstanding over many years and quick solutions just aren't possible. It's not always black and white either. A farmer may be preventing access on an unformed legal road because of bad experiences in the past, or a person seeking access might incorrectly think they have a right of access in a place that is actually private land.
The Commission's chief resource to resolve disagreements over access is its network of eight regional field advisors. Over the past 12 months, these advisors have worked with councils, private landholders, central government agencies and outdoor recreationalists to resolve more than 60 access issues.
A recent example can be found in Canterbury, where the Commission has worked with the owners of Lochiel Station, the Department of Conservation and the North Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association to establish access to the Lochiel Conservation Area.
Canterbury Regional Field Advisor Geoff Holgate said there was no right of public access across Lochiel Station, but the station owners Hamish and Maryann McRae had kindly agreed to allow access across their own land on a route that follows the true left of Shale Peak Stream. A basic accessway has been cleared with help from DOC, and the agreed entry point is marked using signage jointly developed by the Commission and Federated Farmers New Zealand.
â€œIt's a great result and one that has opened up access to a land-locked DOC block. Hunters are understandably delighted and Hamish is happy too as the agreed route avoids the busiest parts of the station and reduces the time he spends fielding requests for access.â€