New Zealand has an abundance of paper roads and great tracks that cross private farmland, bush and forest land, however a lot of land owners won’t allow access due to a lack of understanding around their obligations and risk of being prosecuted if you have an accident or injury while on their property.
The NZ Government, via their Worksafe New Zealand department provides a guide for farmers and land owners about what their responsibilities are for visitors on their land. This guide can be downloaded from the WorkSafe NZ site here: http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/all-guidance-items/farmers-managing-health-and-safety-a-guide-for-farmers.
The relevent section of the brochure is Section 5.2, starting on page 20. This information was last updated 24/06/2014.
5.2 RECREATIONAL VISITORS TO FARMS, PRIVATE OR PUBLIC LAND
The Act (Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992), mainly applies to people at work. However, in some cases, section 16 of the Act places some responsibility on people in control of the workplace to take all practicable steps to make sure others in the workplace are not harmed.
Under the Act people visiting the farm for a workplace-connected reason are covered. Simply, a farmer has a duty under the Act to warn authorised visitors of any work-related, out-of-the-ordinary hazards that may cause them serious harm.
A farmer is not required to warn visitors about hazards from normal every-day farming activities. This includes natural hazards on the farm, such as bluffs, landslides, rivers, swamps or wasp nests, that would ordinarily be expected.
A farmer is not liable if anyone comes on to their land without permission and suffers harm, whether from a work-related hazard or for any other reason.
An authorised visitor is anyone who visits a farm with the farmer’s permission and includes people who come for leisure or recreation.
This includes people who are legally allowed to be on the property, but only if they have told the farmer they are coming. Such people include employees of TransPower, Department of Conservation and local authorities.
A farmer is not responsible if an authorised visitor is injured, if the farmer warned the visitor about any hazards caused by work on the farm, which the farmer knew could harm that person and a visitor wouldn’t normally expect to face. For example, hazards from tree felling, blasting, earthmoving machinery or pest control operations.
A farmer only has to tell visitors verbally about the hazard, at the time they give permission to go on the land. If a group of people visit, it’s enough to give the warning to a representative of that group.
If people pay to use a farmer’s land, or are there to inspect goods for sale, the people become customers. Farmers must take all practicable steps to keep customers safe from any hazard on the farm. Customers can include: people paying to use the farmer’s land for camping, horse trekking or fruit picking; or where a tour operator pays for tourists to visit a scenic site on the farmer’s land.
A farmer also has a full duty to other people near where work is being done. But the farmer is only responsible for managing hazards within their control.
Visitors should take care of themselves by not:
- interfering with plant or equipment, including electrical installations or fences
- entering unauthorised areas or farm buildings
- disturbing or unnecessarily approaching farm animals or work activities
- letting children wander unsupervised
- ignoring instructions or warnings
- leaving gates open or damaging fences.
WARNINGS AND INFORMATION FOR VISITORS
The farmer or landowner might need information, instructions or warning signs to alert visitors to known hazards.
Visitors should make sure they take notice of any warnings and stop if in doubt; until they talk to the farmer or landowner for advice. Visitors should not go into unauthorised areas.
If the visitor can’t contact the owner or occupier, they shouldn’t go ahead. If obvious hazards exist, the visitor must take suitable precautions.
Further information on Unformed Legal Roads (Paper roads) can be found at http://www.walkingaccess.govt.nz, including a summary of the definition and legal status of Unformed Legal Roads.