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September 2019 Issue
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Clarification provided for access myth

Landowners are not liable for those who are injured while accessing their land. Photo: Matthew Cattin

A health and safety policy clarification has delivered a win for access and a sigh of relief for landowners.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 had previously caused confusion and concern amongst landowners, who perceived they could be liable for recreational users’ injury on their land.

This caused some landowners to deny access – most notably with the closure of the rock climbing crag at Auckland Grammar School in 2017 after school management received well-intentioned legal advice that it could be liable should an injury occur.

Recreation Aotearoa advocacy manager Sam Newton said the 2015 Act had been crystal clear, but myths were often spread by landowners’ mates, accountants and “blokes down at the pub”.

He said WorkSafe’s clarification should dispel the perceived risks. People still have to respectfully acquire permission from landowners, but the clarification can be used as a tool in negotiations, Newton said.

“Now, when you are talking to landowners and land managers, you can dispel any perceived legal liability or any misconceptions around legal liability,” he said.

New Zealand Alpine Club president John Palmer said WorkSafe’s clarification has made it “perfectly clear if someone accesses land for recreation and hurts themselves as a result of the recreation activity, the [land manager] who provided access isn’t responsible.”

Newton said now the clarification has been made public, it needs to be spread through the outdoors community and landowners.

“The real challenge is to now get that clarification out there to make it common knowledge,” he said.