The general public might think that access over farms to popular summer spots doesn't cost the farmer anything, but there actually is a price the farmer pays, writes Federated Farmers Senior Policy Advisor Rhea Dasent.

Many farmers generously allow access over their private properties so the public can enjoy rivers, lakes and the coast.

Their property is both their home and workplace, and allowing strangers on can invade farmers' home space and cost their business.

In today's social media world, it is too easy for a person to misinterpret something they see on a farm, snap a misleading photo and post it online.


This happened last year when some beef cattle were photographed near the Tukituki River.

In fact, the farmer was fully compliant with water quality rules. In the Tukituki catchment, grazing riparian margins for weed control is allowed twice per year for a total of 7 days.

The farmer had been asked by regulars to do something about the fennel and other tall weeds that were smothering access.

For his effort to keep access clear and comply with rules, the farmer suffered an undeserved blow to his reputation when the photo was published and the online bullies came out.

If the photographer had asked the farmer about what they had seen, they would have found out there was nothing untoward.

Another farmer near a public walking track has suffered theft of their vegetable crop.

This crop represented the farmer's investment in expensive seed, and weeks of hard work preparing soil, sowing, and tending plants.

The thieves may have though the farmer could spare them some free food, but the farmer has a much right as anyone else to earn a living selling the fruit of their labour.


There are also biosecurity and animal/people security issues with visitors crossing farmland.

Please don't assume that free public access over farms imposes no cost to the land owner.

If you don't know the farmer to ask if you see something out of the ordinary or want a favour, then what are you doing on their land?