Change is constant and no more so than within organisations like the Department of Conservation ( DOC). During February, advice was received from DOC that all unsigned partnership agreements would need to be re-drafted in a new format with the aim of standardisation. The word ‘partnership’ has gone from the title too; with documents now simply being a ‘Community Agreement’. For those contemplating establishing an agreement with DOC to assist with maintenance of an area, the new guidance notes advise… “Be aware that under the Health and Safety at Work Act ( HSWA) 2015, DOC, as a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking ( PCBU), has a duty of care, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the health and safety of a community group ( and the public) when it is carrying out activities on PCL. For this reason, the community group is asked to report any hazards ( e.g. slips or tree falls), adverse natural or other events that it may be become aware of that could have an impact on the activities or safety around the site. Similarly, DOC needs to inform the group when it is aware of hazards, adverse natural or other events, including any planned work programmes that might have an impact on the group’s activities.” “Note that a community group, unless it has a paid employee, is not a PCBU under the HSWA. It has minimal or no legal responsibilities under the Act but still has a duty of care to ensure its members work safely and that its activity does not put the safety of the public at risk. DOC and the community group will need to identify potential hazards and risks and control measures to remove or minimise them. “If there are Special Conditions, list these in Schedule 3. Special Conditions can include both inclusions and exclusions for things such as track work, structures, use of power tools, biosecurity etc. “In most cases the community group will be covered by the Department’s General Liability Policy for third party personal injury and property damage where it follows DOC’s SOPs or uses its own safety procedures that have been reviewed and accepted by DOC. The community group will also need to have a safety plan that has been reviewed and accepted by DOC. “There may be occasions when a community group is required to take out its own insurance cover, e.g., if all or some of its activities fall outside the scope of DOC’s insurance. Ensure that the appropriate type of insurance is taken by the community group. This might include Public Liability insurance and insurance cover for assets such as a hut.” Nothing too onerous, just additional work for DOC staff who were well advanced on at least two agreements linked to four wheeling. One of those agreements relates to the Maratoto area of Coromandel, which has a distinct threat of being closed to recreation as a consequence of Kauri Dieback. It is understood that Maratoto has been ‘under the microscope’ for any evidence of Kauri Dieback. It would be nice to think that none is found, as that might mean that the bikes and 4WDs are not to blame for the general spread of the disease. Another recreation that has copped some blame for moving Kauri Dieback around is hunting and maybe hunters are potentially at risk of becoming a ‘ threatened species’ themselves. A commentary during February was seen to support the banning of pig hunting because in an investigation, pigs were identified as containing high levels of Brodifacourm poison. 13 of 14 wild pigs tested positive to the poison. Of course, an alternative might be to stop using Brodifacourm and 1080 poisons broadcast across our forests, but given the big money involved now, it might take a public rebellion to stop the process. Maybe it’s a cunning plan to eradicate ‘pests’ from our countryside… oh, that’s right, there is a plan to go ‘pest free’! Precisely what are those pests have not been defined, but deer and trout are certainly also on some organisation’s lists. With public lands containing Kauri trees being increasingly likely to have all public access being restricted to limit disease transfer, it will mean that a great area around our biggest population region will become off-limits to a lot of people who enjoy the outdoors. I’ve long been an advocate of the possibilities of that other public land, the unformed legal road ( ULR) network and maybe we need to do more to unleash those possibilities? Given the views held by some of the public that we too are a ‘pest’ and should be dealt to, our approach to the use of ULR could need a lit tle refinement. In Britain such ULR are often termed ‘green lanes’ and there’s been virtual war over their use for many years as the ownership of fourwheel-drives increased, with few alternatives for their use ‘off-road’. They’ve formed an association specifically to identify and support the use of those green lanes. There are guidelines to behaviour too, as that seems to be one of the major irritations to the public and adjacent landowners. It certainly hasn’t solved all the problems; with the highly diverse lot that four wheelers are, but having that association to help pick up the pieces when things get a bit unpleasant, appears to have value. The Walking Access Commission would seem to already be such a body, but I suspect that they’d rather not be the first in line to sort things for four wheeling. They already help where they can, however significant 4WD use of ULR could overwhelm their resources. Should we create an alternative?
Off-roading could be threatened by access restrictions.