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Heels 1970



The Trespass Act 1968 has changed the law in regard to trespassing, landowners now being in a better position than previously. Trampers are in a correspondingly worse position and a few notes on their rights and liabilities may be helpful.

As far as civil actions (i.e. private court actions) are concerned, the position is unchanged. This means that if you are caught on a farmer's land he may take you to court for trespassing. Such an action, if successful, would render you liable to pay him for the damage you caused to his land or property. As in most cases this damamge will be nothing, you will pay nominal damages, probably about $5. Unfortunately, you will also have to pay his costs (lawyer's fees) and this could run into hundreds of dollars. Such actions, fortunately, are rare - I know of none. The possibility of a farmer taking page 22such an action can really be discounted, anyway it is a risk trampers have always taken.

Since the Trespass Act was passed, there can now be criminal liability for trespass and the implications of this are much more important to trampers. The Act provides that if you are caught on a person's land, after a warning has been given to you, (within the previous six months) to keep off it, then you commit a criminal offence. (Note: the warning must either be oral or by registered letter). It is also an offence not to leave immediately when asked to do so, and a further offence not to give your name and address when these are asked for. The penalties provided in the Act are:

For failing to leave when asked - a fine of up to $200 or up to 3 months imprisonment;

For trespassing after being warned not to within the previous 6 months - a fine of up to $200;

For failing to give correct name and address - a fine of up to $200. (Last year one person was fined the maximum for giving a false name and address).

So the position for trampers is: if caught give your (correct) name and address. This cannot do you any harm because being caught for the first time does not make you liable for any offence. If asked to leave, do so promptly and if warned to keep off, do trips which start and finish on other farmers' land for the next six months.

N.B. The Act also provides for a fine of up to $50 for leaving open a closed gate.