The Queen's Chain

As a keen fisherman and gourmand (particularly when it comes to shellfish), Farmer Freddy is concerned about the sustainability of Taranaki's paua stocks.

Freddy was concerned to hear about the recent pillaging of the coast line.

Since his farm is the main access point to a good spot for gathering paua, he wonders if there is anything he can do to protect that fishery. Is the Queen's Chain relevant? And what happened to that talk a few years back about providing the public walking access over farm land along lakes, rivers and coast-lines?

He rings up his daughter Pebbles (an environmental lawyer) to have a yarn about it.

Queen's Chain

Pebbles explains that the Queen's Chain - the supposed strip of land around rivers, lakes and coastline that the public have the right to access - is more a principle than an actual legal reality.

"The principle came from Queen Victoria's instructions to Governor Hobson in December 1840 to set aside various lands for public purposes when making grants of Crown land to settlers. However, the instructions did not specify that all lands next to water should be set aside in this way and as the Crown purchased land from Maori and made grants to settlers, not all land adjacent to water was in fact set aside for the Queen's Chain," she explains.

Around 70 per cent of land adjacent to rivers, lakes and the sea is accessible as Queen's Chain.

Walking access

To extend walking access to water-adjacent land not already covered by the Queen's Chain, Parliament passed the Walking Access Act in 2008.

Under the original proposal, landowners would be required to provide a five metre walking access way alongside rivers, lakes and coastline with significant value. In the end, this was watered down so that public walking access ways would only be provided where the land owner agreed.

"But you have never been required to provide the public access over the farm to get to the Queen's Chain, or to the new public access ways. The Queen's Chain and the new access ways are only alongside the water ways or bodies themselves," she explains.

Freddy's options

"So what can I do then?" asks Freddy.

"Well" replies Pebbles, "you can refuse anyone access across the farm to get to the coast, although you can't stop anyone being on the beach."

"Easier said than done," says Freddy. "Can I let some people on but not others?"

"Absolutely" replies Pebbles. "It's your land so you can let on who you like. Anyone who enters your land without consent is trespassing, and, if you have warned them to stay off, you can call the police. And, if you are concerned that someone is stealing paua or other fish stocks, you can always call the Ministry of Fisheries on 0800 4 POACHER."


The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document.
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