Walking track access cut as cattle spooked

The walking track at Upper Junction, at the start of Cleghorn and Clifton Sts.Photo: Peter McIntosh.
The walking track at Upper Junction, at the start of Cleghorn and Clifton Sts.Photo: Peter McIntosh.
Dunedin city councillor Doug Hall is at the centre of a fresh land dispute, after locking the gates on public access to a walking track crossing his farm.

It was confirmed yesterday the council had closed the Cleghorn St track, above St Leonards, and the Campbell St track, near Bethunes Gully, following complaints from the landowner, Cr Hall, last month.

The Cleghorn St track had since been reopened on a ‘‘restricted’’ basis, and walkers had been cautioned to beware of stock, but it appeared the Campbell St track would remain closed for now.

Cr Hall, a second-term city councillor, said when contacted yesterday he was upset members of the public were spooking his stock, and that the council had promoted the tracks as having ‘‘unrestricted’’ public access.

He was aggrieved by the behaviour of some members of the public who crossed his land, including a runner he watched spook a cow a year or two ago.

The startled animal ended up jumping several gates, until it "jumped right into Bethunes gully", Cr Hall said.

"The cow lost a calf, and I’ve never been happy with it. People just have no respect," he said yesterday.

Cr Hall told the Otago Daily Times a "large part" of the Campbell Rd track was on his land, despite zig-zagging near the path of a paper road, but the closure of the Cleghorn St track had been a misunderstanding.

He was happy for walkers to continue using it, because it was "quite a nice walk", but wanted dogs, cyclists and other more disturbing visitors kept out.

He also wanted the council to accept responsibility for any health and safety concerns, as the track could take walkers close to breeding cows and bulls, he said.

"If somebody gets attacked by a bloody bull or a cow when they’re calving, who’s going to be responsible?"

It was the second time Cr Hall had found himself locked in a public land dispute, having previously locked horns with the council over the realignment of State Highway 88.

Council recreation planning and facilities manager Jendi Paterson said she sympathised with Cr Hall’s concerns for his stock, and he had "every right" to close either of the tracks.

However, she also worried about the loss of recreational space for members of the public, and hoped to work with Cr Hall to reinstate public access in time.

"I’d like to think we can find a nice middle ground," Ms  Paterson said.

In the meantime, the council’s website had been updated yesterday, to show access to the Cleghorn St track was restricted only, and not closed, she said.

The need for any extra signage to cover health and safety concerns would also be considered, she said.

The council was also working with the Department of Conservation on an audit of all Dunedin’s walking tracks, she said.

That would result in better information about their condition and signage, and allow the council to provide improved information on its website, she said.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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