Crack down on own­ers who shut out walk­ers

Taupo & Turangi Weekender - - FRONT PAGE - Lau­rilee McMichael

A Taupo¯ res­i­dent is call­ing on Taupo¯ Dis­trict Coun­cil to crack down on en­croach­ments on one of its lake­front re­serves and make it more ac­ces­si­ble to the public.

For­mer Waikato re­gional coun­cil­lor Lau­rie Bur­dett has long been con­cerned about the public be­ing shut out of land that is legally theirs to en­joy and she says the Te Kopua Point lake­front re­serve in Aca­cia Bay is par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic with lim­ited ac­cess to the public and en­croach­ments all along the few parts that are ac­ces­si­ble.

Lau­rie says (and a visit by a jour­nal­ist con­firmed) that where sev­eral parts of the re­serve that run di­rectly in front of houses, the re­serve bound­ary mark­ers some­times do not ex­ist or have been re­moved. That gives the im­pres­sion that the land is pri­vate prop­erty and peo­ple tend to stay off it ac­cord­ingly.

Lau­rie says while she has no de­sire to in­vade peo­ple’s pri­vacy by walk­ing along the front of their houses and be­lieves most walk­ers would feel the same, the mark­ers should stay in place to be clear about where pri­vate land stops and coun­cil re­serve starts be­cause oth­er­wise the ef­fect is to deny ac­cess onto public land.

How­ever in some spots along the re­serve, ac­cess has been blocked. In other ar­eas it is poor or non-ex­is­tent.

Lau­rie says she never knew there was a strip of coun­cil re­serve along the lake­front at the north­ern end of Te Kopua Bay un­til late 2014 when the coun­cil asked for sub­mis­sions on a landowner’s pro­posal to swap a piece of flat re­serve land for a tree-clad cliff, plus $45,000, an of­fer it ul­ti­mately turned down.

When Lau­rie and other in­ter­ested lo­cals went for a look at the piece of land in­tended for the land swap, they were sur­prised to dis­cover that what they had as­sumed was pri­vate land — mostly be­cause it had gar­dens and lawns on it — was in some places ac­tu­ally coun­cil re­serve.

In 2015 the coun­cil’s Fences, Road­ing, Re­serves and Dogs com­mit­tee told a home­owner, who had un­til then been un­aware that what she thought was part of her front lawn was ac­tu­ally coun­cil re­serve, that she had to re­move the fence that en­croached some 10m onto the re­serve and blocked public ac­cess.

At that meet­ing it was agreed that the fence block­ing the re­serve had to go, but that the coun­cil would plant some trees on the bound­ary and give them a cou­ple of sea­sons to grow be­fore re­mov­ing the fence.

The trees were planted but have since been re­moved.

The coun­cil put in a set of steps to al­low ac­cess to the lower part of the re­serve.

Other ex­ist­ing re­serve en­croach­ments that were in place at the time are still there nearly five years later, and in one part of the re­serve, filled veg­e­ta­tion blocks the re­serve path­ways that run in front of some of the prop­er­ties. In front of one va­cant sec­tion, felled trees and veg­e­ta­tion were pushed down onto the re­serve.

Lau­rie says with lim­ited lake­front re­serve land avail­able at Aca­cia Bay, Te Kopua Re­serve is im­por­tant for recre­ation and ac­cess and the coun­cil should be re­in­forc­ing that by build­ing a walk­way along it, par­tic­u­larly the north­ern part. When the lake level is high, peo­ple can­not get along the beach and as­sume, wrongly thanks to the re­serve en­croach­ments, that the land above the lake shore is pri­vate prop­erty and can­not be ac­cessed. She says the re­serve would make a lovely area to walk along.

“The pop­u­la­tion of Aca­cia Bay is grow­ing and more and more peo­ple are us­ing the re­serve. When the lake’s high you can’t get along the bot­tom, not eas­ily.

“You could squeak a walk­way along the bot­tom and it would join onto the boat ramp at Al­berta St,

although it might be a prob­lem at high lake lev­els.”

Lau­rie says the coun­cil needs to adopt a zero tol­er­ance to re­serve en­croach­ments pol­icy and en­act it.

A Taupo¯ Dis­trict Coun­cil spokesper­son says en­croach­ments are not per­mit­ted on land that is sub­ject to the Re­serves Act 1977.

“The Act ap­plies to most of our parks and re­serves, in­clud­ing Te Kopua Re­serve.”

The spokesper­son said the coun­cil must act in the best in­ter­est of the public who are the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the re­serve.

“Coun­cil will be look­ing into en­sur­ing public ac­cess to the re­serve is main­tained.”

A sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion ex­ists in Kin­loch along the Whanga­mata¯ Stream and Okaia Stream re­serves, both owned by the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion.

Along the Whanga­mata¯ Stream Re­serve a strip of public land runs along both sides of the stream. But re­serve land on the true right has, in some parts been planted to make it look as though the land is an ex­ten­sion of the sec­tion ad­join­ing it, with pri­vate gar­dens on the re­serve and plant­ings that in some cases block foot ac­cess all to­gether.

In other parts the re­serve is used as a de­facto dump­ing ground, with green veg­e­ta­tion dumped along the banks, which in turn spreads pest plants and weeds.

De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion op­er­a­tions man­ager Dave Lum­ley says over the years there have been a few oc­cur­rences of peo­ple ex­pand­ing their prop­erty by mow­ing a re­serve or dis­rupt­ing a track.

He says DoC can also take ac­tion un­der the Re­serves Act 1977 and warns that peo­ple putting as­sets on a DoC re­serve can ex­pect the as­sets to be re­moved.

He says DoC is sup­port­ive of peo­ple liv­ing next to a re­serve tak­ing cus­to­di­an­ship, and would en­cour­age landown­ers to work with DoC, par­tic­u­larly if they want to car­ry­ing out preda­tor trap­ping or re­plant­ing.

He recog­nises that re­serves can be viewed as be­ing un­tidy, and this is of­ten the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind a landowner mow­ing the re­serve to im­prove it.

His mes­sage to ad­join­ing landown­ers is to re­spect the in­tegrity of ad­join­ing con­ser­va­tion land.

“En­joy it but don’t treat it as your own pri­vate prop­erty.”

Lau­rie Bur­dett says a walk­way along the Te Kopua Re­serve and clearer def­i­ni­tion of re­serve bound­aries would pre­vent walk­ers hav­ing to get wet feet, stop them inad­ver­tently stray­ing onto pri­vate prop­erty and pre­vent ad­join­ing landown­ers from dis­cour­ag­ing law­ful re­serve ac­cess.

Pho­tos / Lau­rilee McMichael

Cut veg­e­ta­tion dumped on coun­cil re­serve at Te Kopua Point pre­vents walk­ers from con­tin­u­ing along the top part of the re­serve next to pri­vate prop­er­ties. A re­serve marker is at the top left hand cor­ner of the pho­to­graph.

Dumped veg­e­ta­tion and com­post bins along the DoC-owned Whanga­mata¯ Stream Re­serve.

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