27 Mar 2009

High Country farmers await decision over public access

7:06 am on 27 March 2009

High Country farmers are awaiting the outcome of a court case to determine the public's rights to access Crown land leased to farmers.

A judge has reserved his decision after the Fish and Game Council argued in the High Court in Wellington that the public should be entitled to hunt and fish on the farms.

Opposing the bid is the Crown, as well as the High Country Accord, which represents many of the South Island's 230 pastoral leaseholders.

The leases cover more than 1.5 million hectares of South Island high country.

Chairperson of the accord Andrew Simpson says he will not pre-empt the judge's decision, but is pleased the court hearing is over.

Mr Simpson says the decision will affect how high country farms are run and farmers throughout New Zealand will be keenly awaiting the judge's decision, expected to be released in mid-April.

Federated Farmers says if shooting and hunting is allowed on the land, it will make farming impossible.