Walking Access Bill
Hon DAVID CARTER (National) : National supports the third reading of the Walking Access Bill. We do so because we finally see common sense prevail in what has been a very difficult and emotive debate. I acknowledge also the contribution of John Acland, who has been involved in this for a long time, and has certainly at times incurred the wrath of many of our farmers. My thanks also go to Eric Roy for his involvement in the process. He was an inspired choice by Jim Sutton, the predecessor of Damien O’Connor as the Minister for Rural Affairs, because when he was not a member of Parliament he was able to be on the Land Access Ministerial Reference Group and provide the very good common-sense perspective of a landowner.
The reason this debate has been so destructive is that it threatened the sanctity of private property rights. It threatened to create a real divide between rural New Zealand and urban New Zealand. I am pleased today that finally common-sense legislation has been presented by the Labour Government. In my mind, this became a personal crusade of the Prime Minister, Helen Clark. I have no idea why she developed this personal crusade, but there is a strong rumour around the high country of the South Island that on one of her regular expeditions around the high country she and her tramping group were denied access to a farming property. I suspect she was denied access not because the farmer did not want them on the land enjoying his farm, but because the group never bothered to ask the farmer for permission in the first place. That is a strong rumour. It is hard to prove, but it is certainly one that one picks up every time one goes through Tekap?. This argument should be all about respecting private property rights, something that Ms Moroney finds very, very difficult to do.
Today we finally see a good way of delivering better public access to our public estate. But what this bill does—and it does it well—is that it finally respects the private property rights of farmers. They like people enjoying access to their farms. I say to Sue Moroney that the only thing they want is the privilege of being asked first. That is all that was required in this debate. That is what John Acland and his reference group finally found when they went and spoke to the thousands of landowners throughout the country who found the original proposal by Jim Sutton and Helen Clark absolutely abhorrent to private property rights and to democracy. What we see today is a strategic back-down. It is a big back-down for the Labour Government.
Lesley Soper: Just nonsense!
Hon DAVID CARTER: Ms Soper has not been here long enough to actually understand the issue and know the derision and division it caused throughout rural New Zealand. Tonight we have a pragmatic solution. The important thing Ms Moroney needs to realise is that it is actually the policy that National advanced at the very outset of this debate. We said that this is what we wanted to do. One has to respect private property rights and at least have the ability, the common sense, and the decency to ask permission if one wants to go on private land.
Christopher Finlayson: You’ve upset them over the Prime Minister—do it again!
Hon DAVID CARTER: It is very easy to upset them over the Prime Minister. It is also quite a lot of fun.
The other thing this bill does is acknowledge that in some cases access to a public resource is denied because it is effectively encompassed by private land. Legislation has finally said that in those circumstances we need to do what National always said we need to do: enter into good-faith negotiations with the landowner and find a solution. Finally, after 5, 6, or 7 years of acrimony and division, we have the solution that National advocated in the first place, and that is why it is with pleasure that National finally supports this legislation.
But the question that Sue Moroney can answer when she next takes a call is why Helen Clark caused all this angst. Why did the farmers throughout New Zealand tie orange ribbons round their gates, their trees, and any other structure they could attach a ribbon to in order to signal to New Zealanders that private property rights were important? Where Helen Clark went wrong, and where Sue Moroney is now going wrong, is that it did not become a debate between rural New Zealand and urban New Zealand, because urban New Zealanders also had a respect for private property rights. They knew that what the Government, Jim Sutton, and Helen Clark originally proposed was wrong, and they joined in supporting the farmers of New Zealand. It is with the support of farmers and all common-sense New Zealanders that tonight we are getting the sort of legislation that is required to address this issue.
I am pleased the stupid fight is now over. I am pleased that Labour and Helen Clark have finally seen common sense. I am pleased to be part of a debate that sees the legislation passed in the dying days of a Labour Government—there are 6½ weeks to go before the general election—and it will be good to get this one off the agenda. But most important, I support the Walking Access Bill because it finally recognises the importance of private property rights.