Sunday, August 14, 2022

Access added to high country reforms

Neal Wallace
A last minute addition to the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill will require purchasing leaseholders to make greater efforts to provide better public access when buying a lease.

Federated Farmers high country committee chairman Rob Stokes says details about a change to the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill are vague and he’s seeking more information.

A last minute addition to the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill will require purchasing leaseholders to make greater efforts to provide better public access when buying a lease.

The Environment Select Committee inserted a clause in the Supplementary Order Paper to the Bill requiring the Commissioner of Crown Lands to decline the transfer of a Crown pastoral lease unless he is satisfied the applicant has made reasonable endeavours to enhance public access. 

“It does not require a leaseholder to provide reasonable access,” says LINZ head of Crown property Sonya Wikitera.

“The provision does not change the need for any individual or group to seek permission from the leaseholder to access a pastoral lease.”  

Federated Farmers high country committee chairman Rob Stokes says details about the change are vague.

“We haven’t seen enough detail to be convinced so we are seeking discussion with Land Information NZ (LINZ).”

Pastoral lessees are guaranteed under law to exclusive possession and the right to quiet enjoyment of their lease.

The commissioner of Crown lands, who has to approve the transfer of pastoral lease land, will determine if reasonable endeavour has made by lessees to enhance public access on a case-by-case basis. 

“The commissioner can consider a range of factors including the public access already available, the impact on farming operations, situations when access has been declined, and whether there has been any engagement on access with interested parties,” Wikitera says.

The Bill was reported back to the house by the select committee last July and the Government intends to pass it early this year.

Wikitera says the select committee recommended including the public access provision in response to submissions on the Bill.

She noted that people wanting to access a pastoral lease still need permission from the leaseholder.

“The proposed provision would not alter this approach.”

Land Information Minister Damien O’Connor asked officials to look at the additional provision which meant working with the High Country Accord Trust, Department of Conservation and Walking Access Commission. 

“LINZ has now provided advice to the minister on how the provision could be amended further via a supplementary order paper, so that the Bill better meets the aim of ensuring that reasonable requests for public access over Crown pastoral leases are not unreasonably refused while respecting leaseholders’ existing property rights.”

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