CAN I VISIT A HIGH COUNTRY FARM?
Most high country farmers will on request allow walking and, in some cases, vehicle access for recreational visitors. Access is not, however, a right – farmers are responsible legally for the safety of visitors to their farms. They are also morally obliged to assist if there is an accident.
Fire risk, disturbance to lambing ewes, the presence of rutting stags, farm activities, the activities of other visitors, and a desire for peace and quiet, are all reasons why a farmer may choose to decline access. For safety reasons, managing access for hunters is particularly important.
In popular areas, visitor numbers mean that high country farmers are having to provide toilets and other facilities. In these situations, visitors should expect to pay a modest access fee.
Farmers with Crown Pastoral Leases have the same right as farmers with freehold title to control public access to their farms. This was confirmed in a High Court judgment issued in May 2009, as a result of an action brought by Fish & Game New Zealand.
A successful high country fisherman with a trophy brown trout. Photo copyright: Hossack Station
Many farmers also charge fees to hunting and fishing guides, film crews and others carrying out economic activity on their land. This helps fund weed and pest control, fences, roading and other costs associated with maintaining large properties in remote areas.
If you wish to stay in the high country, many farming families operate farm stays. Four wheel drive treks, trophy hunting and guided fishing are all promoted on the worldwide web.
Isn't better access an issue for some recreational users of the high country?
Yes. It's a big issue for high country farmers too.
When the high country was originally settled it was so remote that no-one imagined that access routes to the hinterland would one day be needed.
These days there is growing demand from recreational users to cross high country farmland to get access to DoC estate, or to have access to streams on farms for fishing. On some properties this demand has reached the point that just answering phone calls from would-be visitors can be a real burden for farmers.
A bull tahr and youngsters in the high country. Photo copyright: Hossack Station
The Accord supports the Code of Practice for high country visitors developed by Federated Farmers and will work with the new Walking Access Commission and land owners on the identification of possible new access routes and arrangements over private land in the high country.
Does foreign land ownership affect access?
Some high country farms have always been in overseas and corporate ownership. The nationality of the owners has little or nothing to do with their attitude to recreational access by the public.