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Recreational access and the new workplace safety laws

A guide for Fish & Game licence holders and farmers

Prepared in consultation with Work Safe
May 2016

The new workplace safety legislation came into effect this month and is aimed at providing New Zealand workers with a safe workplace and reducing the present high level of death and injuries in some sectors.

Unfortunately, the often uninformed debate over the new law has raised fears among the rural sector about the implications of the new legislation and in particular, landowners’ liabilities.  Some of that concern is focussed on recreational access to farms and forests, with landowners questioning if they should close all access.

In a rare move, Federated Farmers and Fish & Game joined forces last year to ask Parliament to ensure the legislation did not inadvertently restrict recreational access to farms and forests.

The Select Committee which considered the issue took those concerns into account in its report and the final legislation which was passed by Parliament placed some limitations around farmers’ requirements to manage and control a workplace. 

The practical effect is that these requirements do not apply in respect of other people (for example recreational users) coming onto farm land, apart from the farm buildings and places where work is being carried out at the time.

Fish & Game has also worked with Work Safe to make sure that recreational access is preserved and that organisation has been helpful in clarifying questions and providing advice.  

Fish & Game staff is being asked by both hunters and farmers to clarify the current confusion. The following bullet points provide ready answers to the main points of concern.

  • The new law clarifies the scope of duties to manage or control a workplace in the case of farms. Farmers have a duty to manage workplace risks in farm buildings and their immediate surroundings and where work is actually being carried out on the farm, not the whole property.
  • The Act clarifies that the farm workplace does not include the family home.
  • Farmers are responsible for managing risks they can reasonably be expected to be able to control.

Where a visitor like a hunter, angler or tramper is on a part of the farm not being used for work purposes at that time and isn’t close to any farm buildings, then the farmer does not have a duty to them for any risk arising from the farm. However, there is still a general duty to ensure risks arising from work activities on the farm are managed, so far as is reasonably practicable, so workers and the general public are kept safe.

Gamebird hunters, anglers and farmers are reassured that the new law does not affect, prevent or compromise their access to farms and forests.

  • Fish & Game supports the new law as protecting both workers and New Zealand’s long and treasured tradition of access to the outdoors through farms and forests.
  • Federated Farmers says it is encouraging farmers to make their land available for recreation.  Federated Farmers’ Health and Safety spokesperson Katie Milne says fishing and hunting is an integral part of the culture of New Zealand rural life.
  • Work Safe is supportive of Fish & Game’s interests in this area and its field staff are up to speed with the issue of recreational access.
  • The law makes it clear that the duty to manage and control a workplace doesn’t extend to people who are there for unlawful purposes.

These links on the Work Safe website will also help answer questions about the new law:    

If you are going on forest land to hunt with a rifle and or dogs you will need written permission from the forest owner beforehand.  Any right to roam provisions don’t extend to hunting access.

Some forest owners will withhold permission unless the hunter is a Fish & Game licence holder, or a member of the Deerstalkers Association or a local pig hunting club which carries Forest and Rural Fires insurance coverage.