Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Public Access: Have your say -- it's your property they're after

A guest blog this morning from Julian Pistorius.

Are you a land-owner? Are you aware of the government's plans for giving the public access to "significant" areas, and how that will affect your property rights? Are you concerned yet? If not, I urge you to read on. You have until Friday to make a submission in support of your remaining property rights.

The previous attempt to force the issue of public access was grossly arrogant and high-handed, with the bureaucrats having no apparent appreciation of the importance of your property rights.

Surprise, surprise.

Fortunately, after a public backlash that included the Orange Ribbon campaign of Federated Farmers, the bureaucrats were sent scurrying back to Wellington -- but the busybodies have not learnt their lesson, they're regrouped and they're now back to push their assualt on private property again. This time they are treading a bit more softly, but don't be conned: the people behind this have not changed, and they still have no idea how important your property rights are.
A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad. --Theodore Roosevelt
The politicians behind the "Walking Access Consultation Panel" seem to think that there is a serious problem - that too many members of the public are having difficulty in accessing "significant" natural areas. Yet, a survey by Federated Farmers showed that about 90% of farmers gladly let people cross their property when asked. There aren't "serious access problems" at all - there is a problem with bureaucrats yet again sticking their noses in where they don't belong.

However, let's assume that there are cases where clear and lasting access rights are sought by interested groups. How should this be achieved? That is what the Consultation Document tries to find out.
Where there is no private ownership, individuals can be bent to the will of the state, even under threat of starvation. --attrib. to Leon Trotsky
According to the document (which you can download here in full as a PDF, or here in sections) they are seeking "solutions that are practical and cost effective, but recognise that their implementation may take several years" (p02), and "with the objective of arriving at common-sense solutions" (p03).

Here is my solution: Common law. Common law has hundreds of years of demonstrated success in protecting property rights, as well as being practical and cost effective. It's common sense.

Under common law, the right of access is just one of many 'sticks' in the bundle of rights associated with your land. Groups (or individuals) can only acquire such rights by either purchase, or by long unchallenged use (as per 'prescription,' or the doctrine of 'lost modern grant'). Such groups might for example be tramping clubs, angling organisations, hunting clubs, skiing clubs, botanical societies, canoe clubs etc. Such rights, if they exist, would be specificclearly defined and circumscribed, and would appear on title deeds as a specific easement in favour of specific groups, which property-owners would know about when property was purchased. Common law is clear, certain, and protects your property rights (the exact opposite of the RMA, for instance.) And best of all, common law is simple, and thus doesn't require hoards of bureaucrats to administer it. (And if you complain that no group has access rights over land you wish to walk, and the owner hasn't granted you permission, then ask yourself why the hell you should have a right to access?) So the lesson is this:
  • If you wish to have access to someone else's land, either ask the owner nicely, or apply to one of the holders of access rights to land.
  • And if you're a property-owner, make a submission on the Walking Access Consultation Panel. Your own property rights are at stake here.
They who have no property can have no freedom. --Stephen Hopkins
Why are your property rights so important? Strong property rights are the basis of your individual rights, your freedom, and our whole civilisation. Nobel Prize-winning economist, Friedrich A. Hayek noted: "The system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not. It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that nobody has complete power over us, that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves."

So, your property rights must be secure. If anybody wants access over your property, they must be able to demonstrate long-term use, or they have to purchase these access rights by mutual voluntary agreement. Simple. This is however not the 'solution' proposed by the Panel.

Surprise, surprise.

Submissions close on Friday 30th of June, so this is your last chance to have your say. Go to, download the submission document, and tell them what you think.
Nothing is ours, which another may deprive us of. -- Thomas Jefferson

No other rights are safe where property is not safe. --Daniel Webster

The right of distribution over private property is the essence of freedom. --Merrill Jenkin
Most of the other problems raised by the panel (mapping, information about access, signs, etc.) can easily be solved by technology, and a good dose of common sense.

I have serious doubts about the honesty and motives of this consultation process. My impression of the documents and the meetings are that, as with most government-run 'consultations' they were designed to lead you to the government's own pre-determined conclusion. It's not a consultation, but a lecture. In their own words, the panel "is seeking to create a consensus about solutions for formal access" (p1). Create a consensus? Isn't a consensus reached by all parties, rather than"created."

How do they propose to "create" this consensus of theirs? Well, their questionnaire resembles a set of gates, and the panel's job is to drive the sheep through these gates and get the whole flock into the same pen. That's how they will go about creating consensus - by relying on your passive silence, on your obedience, by confusing the issues, by intimidation and by subtle threats - just like a dog driving sheep.

They have decided which check-boxes to present to you, artificially narrowing your choices to their own ideologically-blinkered options. In setting the parameters of the discussion, they have made sure that the question of property rights is demoted. Property rights are not even mentioned in the primary aim of the walking access panel. In the "aim" section of the full document, the closest they come is by characterising property rights as "having our very own piece of dirt" (p5) - in jest, I hope. You have to wonder whether the bureaucrats who dreamed this up understand the importance of secure property rights? (This, is by the way, a rhetorical question.)
Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that human rights are superior to property rights simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of human. --Ayn Rand
From the documents and the meetings, you can see that they have already decided that there should be a national "access agency" with suspiciously wide capabilities. I am afraid that it will either become another huge, ineffectual, bureaucratic money-waster (which in some respects would be the best outcome for it) or worse, like DOC it may become a powerful lobby group that will use your tax money against you and threaten your hard-won property rights.

I urge you to send in a submission. The more noise you make about this issue, the clearer the following message will be sent to the government: "Hands-off our property rights!"

LINKS: Consultation document - Walking Access Consultation Panel
Property rights - the Northland speech - Peter Cresswell

TAGS: Property_Rights, Politics-NZ


  1. I just can't understand why this proposal is seen as necessary by our Dear Leaders, let alone just. As a keen shooter, I've long enjoyed access to private farms. Why? Because I've asked permission. All it takes is a phone call or a knock on the door, and the landowners are more than happy to give you access. The only time I was turned away was because it was lambing season and the poor sheep get jumpy around shotguns when they're trying to give birth. Fair enough, my wife would be too.
    The whole idea is bullshit and deserves to be buried.

  2. David: 'I just can't understand why this proposal is seen as necessary ...'

    David, this proposal is yet another attack on private property rights, which is a direct attack on freedom.

    Totalitarians are the enemy of freedom. That's the reason 'this proposal is seen as necessary'. (And the further extension of govt as a result is an extra plus for the bastards).

    Govt for the sake of govt.


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