Cracker by Damian Christie

Access Denied

We've had to move out of the Ham for the week, as the floors are being sanded and varnished. We've left the cats behind, and the tradesmen have been charged with the task of keeping them outside and off the sticky floors. I don't think they've properly accounted for the wily ways of the feline, and their insatiable desire to be Places They Aren't Supposed to Be. My cat Tonka has, over the years, ended up stuck in every cupboard, the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer without being noticed. Despite his stature (he's big boned, I tell you), I don't see gaining clandestine entry to a house with all number of tradesmen coming and going posing a particular challenge. They call them cat burglars for a reason, you know.

So I think it wise to ask readers in advance: Does anyone know a pain-free environmentally-friendly method of un-stucking a cat (or three) from a polyurethane floor?

As a result, I'm writing this blog from a cardboard box (roomy, thanks to a sponsorship deal with New Zealand's premium whiteware manufacturer – cheers Fisher & Paykel) somewhere near Grafton. I'm feeling all very Intrepid Journeys. It's starting to rain, and I think if I don't acquire some corflute soon I'm going to have to put my laptop back inside its New World carry bag. I wonder if exiled Liberian President Charles Taylor is dealing with the same issues, although I doubt it.

The dog control issue is back in the news, with parliament's Local Government select committee hearing submissions on the proposals. Not surprisingly, (at least not for those smarty-pantses who predicted it a few months ago), the greatest concern in the submissions to date is over the requirement for dog owners to fence their property AND YET still provide dog-free public access to at least one door of the house. Dog owners are furious at the extra costs of providing some labyrinthine series of gates, fences and tunnels all for the benefit of being doorknocked by all and sundry.

Councils are objecting the extra costs faced in inspecting said labyrinths, saying it will result in 'rates rises for all', although councils being councils you could equally see them arguing that not having dogs fenced in will necessitate extra dog control officers, and inevitably, 'rates rises for all'. With the dreadful attack on Carolina Anderson now some months past, the media beat-up on dogs all but over, the Government isn't going to find passing this one as easy as it once might. Funny how that happens with ill-advised knee-jerk legislation, isn't it?

Access is at the heart of a couple of other Government debates at the moment too, albeit on a much grander scale. Should we be able to traipse over our country cousins' land in order to get to our nation's beaches? who owns those beaches? and do we have to pay koha if we want to go swimming? In theory they're separate issues, but you won't be shocked to discover that in the world of talkback radio, they're all a muddle, even for the hosts.

As regards the first, I have to have some sympathy for the farmers. For years farmers on the whole have been pretty reasonable in allowing access across their land for one reason or another. They've had to endure stupid townies who don't know the rule about gates (if you find it closed, shut it behind you, if you find it open, leave it so), frighten stock, litter and generally make their lives more difficult. And yet, they've generally been pretty good about it. As townies get more out of touch with rural NZ –and personally I blame TVNZ pulling A Dog's Show from prime time – so they care less about that environment. On the flipside, farmers are being forced to care a lot more about the townies, thanks to OSH they are now largely liable for accidents suffered by townies on their land, whether invited or not. It's understandable why some of those gates are now locked.

Whether the gates will remain locked, and exactly how they will be opened is the issue. The outdoor rec people are calling for the Government to secure permanent access to public land. The Government are, at this stage, talking about negotiated public access, although it hasn't yet been said what will be offered in return. Financial compensation, removal of OSH liability apropos the general public, tax breaks, who could say? It will have to be something tangible though; even this Labour party won't want to be known as the government that substantially reduced private property rights by removing the right of farmers to exclude people from their land.

The battery on my laptop is about to go. I'm going to find a friendly retailer who wil let me recharge for half an hour, then it's off to hunt for some corflute.