Hunter Valley access still of concern

Issues over access to parts of Hunter Valley Station on the shores of Lake Hawea look set to continue despite the station's lease changing hands.

Last month, the Overseas Investment Office approved the sale of the lease on the 6468ha station to a new lessee, understood to be an American businessman.

The commissioner of Crown Lands is yet to grant consent to the transfer of the leasehold from Taff and Pene Cochrane to the new owner.

In its decision the OIO said the new lease holder had demonstrated a willingness to enable public access to several important sites on or around the land.

Public access through the station has been a contentious issue in the past, particularly around the use of Meads Rd and access to the head of Lake Hawea and the Hawea Conservation Park.

A group of 10 interested parties took part in negotiations with the new lease holder about increasing public access through the station before the OIO's decision was made last month.

Provisions for improved access are included the decision but in some cases the terms would be determined by the lease holder.

At least one of those groups involved in the negotiations believed no significant improvements had been made.

Federated Mountain Clubs president Peter Wilson said it seemed the negotiations had come to nothing.

Mr Wilson said he believed an agreement had been reached that would allow managed access with an easement placed along the road line, which ran through the station, in the name of the Walking Access Commission.

It was clear from reading the OIO's decision the current access, which was very limited, would continue, he said.

''For us, this is a major issue and one we are going to fight quite hard on.''

Queenstown lawyer Graeme Todd, who represented the new lease holder in the negotiations, said there had been an extensive consultation process with groups wanting access to parts of the station.

Mr Todd said all the groups involved put forward plans for what type of access they wanted and in most cases those plans had been included in the granting of the lease.

Some groups wanted provisions set, such as the use of vehicles, which were not applicable to a working farm, he said.

''What people need to remember is this is a working farm and will continue to be a working farm so access has got to continue to work around those farming activities.''

A spokesman for the Walking Access Commission said they were still examining the OIO's decision and were not in a position to comment on it at the moment.

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