Legislation could limit access to conservation land

Legislation could limit access to conservation land

Outdoor enthusiasts fear they will lose access to some of New Zealand's most outstanding recreational areas under proposed changes to health and safety laws.

Hunters, trampers and mountain bikers are worried farmers will lock their gates rather than risk liability for those crossing their land.

Getting out into the great outdoors has long been a staple part of Kiwi life.

"Trampers have relied on crossing farmers' land for a long time now, and there's a history that goes back over a century and we'd just hate to see that disappear," says Robin McNeill, president of the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand.

Mr McNeill says the wording of some proposed changes in the Health and Safety Reform Bill could prompt landowners to lock recreational users out, rather than face responsibility for anything untoward happening to anyone crossing their land.

That land would be referred to as a worksite under the legislation.

"What we're worried about is that the farmers are going to get worried, and quite rightly, and they're going to find it much easier to put up a sign saying 'Trespassers will be prosecuted – keep out' or 'This is a worksite – keep out'," says Mr McNeill.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse would not discuss the proposed changes before the bill goes before the select committee this week.

But Mr McNeill says it's not too late for an easy fix.

"We think some careful wording of the bill would fix this pretty easily but it does need to be spelt out, and it does need to be spelt out much more clearly even than in the last act."

If passed, the bill will see the biggest changes to health and safety legislation in 25 years.

3 News