Legal action possible over Hunter Valley access

A barrier at Hunter Valley Station on the road to a camping area at Kidds Bush in 2010. Photo from ODT files.
A barrier at Hunter Valley Station on the road to a camping area at Kidds Bush in 2010. Photo from ODT files.
Legal action could be taken in an effort to overturn the decision to allow American television presenter Matt Lauer to buy the Hunter Valley Station, on the northern shores of Lake Hawea.

The Federated Mountain Clubs has called on Mr Lauer to restart negotiations regarding public access to the 6468ha leasehold station.

The club was just one of about 10 groups which held talks with Mr Lauer's representatives - before the sale was approved by the Overseas Investment Office last month - about allowing public access through the station.

A walkway easement along the formed road through Hunter Valley Station to the public conservation land at the head of Lake Hawea and beyond was the major concession the group wanted.

Club executive member Erik Bradshaw said the group did not want to have to ask for a judicial review of the OIO's decision but if access conditions were not improved it would be considered.

''We don't want it to get that far but if that's the only way we can protect New Zealanders' right to access public land then that's what we need to do.''

Only two of nine recommendations put forward by the Walking Access Commission (Wac) were adopted.

A Wac spokesman declined to comment on the Hunter Valley Station decision.

Before any legal action, the club and other groups wanted to renegotiate access provisions, particularly through to the Hawea Conservation Estate and the Hunter Valley, Mr Bradshaw said.

Many of the other group also thought the deal was a failure.

Queenstown lawyer Graeme Todd, who represents Orange Lakes Ltd, the buyer named in the OIO's decision, said a letter sent to him by the club outlining what it wanted had been passed on to his client's representatives.

Mr Todd wanted to clarify he only represented Orange Lakes Ltd in the sale of the station and had never confirmed the name of the person behind the company, including Mr Lauer's.

The station would continue to be a working farm with increased investment, which meant unrestricted public access could not be allowed, he said.

''Because of how the farm operates, open public access is just not practical, but where and when it can be achieved, the public will be allowed access.''

In the 18 months before the sale was approved there had been an extensive consultation process with groups wanting access to parts of the station. Some groups wanted provisions which were not applicable to a working farm, he said.

In a statement, the OIO said the commissioner of Crown Lands had yet to grant consent to the transfer of Hunter Valley Station's leasehold to Orange Lakes.

Orange Lakes had satisfied the criteria of the overseas investment legislation in demonstrating the investment was likely to benefit New Zealand and public access facilitation was one of the benefits.

The OIO had no role in consultation or any negotiations concerning public access, but it could impose conditions on any access arrangements agreed to.

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