Walking quango is kept on a leash

Bad news for those of us who want to see quangos go the way of the moa, into extinction.

Another one has been given a new lease of life with the confirmation of its board appointments, although it has had its budget trimmed. This should help keep it leashed.

Agriculture Minster David Carter – normally a red-blooded with a healthy rural disregard for this sort of carry-on – today announced the members of the Board of the New Zealand Walking Access Commission.

John Acland has been reappointed as chair for a term of two years and the remaining Board members have been reappointed for terms ranging from one to three years.

The members were all made short-term appointees in October last year owing to the conventions relating to a pre-election period.

Get that? Carter could have had this commission put down by failing to make the appointements, although maybe some new legislation was needed ultimately to ensure the bugger didn’t bounce back into life.

Confirming the Board line-up, Mr Carter said that collectively, the members have experience in farming, Maori interests, legal issues, local government, outdoor recreation and the environment.

The members are: John Acland (chair), Brian Stephenson, Peter Brown, Barbara Stuart, Dr Kay Booth, John Aspinall, John Forbes and Maggie Bayfield.

“Land access is a widely debated issue in New Zealand and I welcome the leadership and range of skills the members bring to the Walking Access Commission,” says Mr Carter.

Public access to rural land has been a matter of heated debate between farmers and recreational groups, leading to the commission being established under the Walking Access Act 2008.

The commission was set up to provide a central point for the coordination of all walking access in New Zealand. Its job is to provide information on walking access routes, negotiate new walking access across private land (eg to lakes, rivers and forests) and facilitate the resolution of disputes relating to walking access.

The Commission is also responsible for walkways, which were formerly under the New Zealand Walkways Act 1990, although day-to-day administration of walkways on conservation land will remain with the Department of Conservation.

Maybe this is worthy stuff – Alf isn’t too strong on walking too far nowadays so should disqulify himself from commenting.

He can’t help but wonder, however, about the number of issues that are resolved by establishing a commission, a tribunal, a board, or whatever.

In this case, fair to say, the commission at least is finding the new government isn’t throwing away money like the previous bunch (although it is still doing the PC thing and kicked off its February meeting with a karakia to acknowledge a spiritual presence, which Alf finds astonishing in a secular society).

The prayer didn’t do the commission any good, because the minutes show –

The Chair advised that he had met with the Minister that morning and that the Minister had advised that:

1. He intends to reduce the appropriation for the New Zealand Walking Access Commission by $1.0 million from the 2009 Estimates. (This would have the effect of eliminating the $1.0 million carried forward from 2007);

2. Neither the 2008/09 funding nor the base funding for 2009/10 were changed;

3. The board needs to show how it will use the fund for the Minister to be able to show public support for further funding;

4. He would go back to the Minister of Finance if this is shown to be required.The reduction means that the forecast size of the contestable fund will be $1m instead of $2m.

So another quango has been given legs – but already it has had its budgetary wings clipped.

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