20 Jun 2019

New Cook Islands law allows access to private land without notice

1:42 pm on 20 June 2019

Government infrastructure project managers in the Cook Islands will be allowed to walk onto private land without prior notice as part of a controversial new land law.

Aerial landscape view of the beautiful Muri Lagoon and a Motu (Islet) in Rarotonga Island in the Cook Islands.

Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/ 123RF

The Cook Islands News reported the new Infrastructure Act authorises access to privately-owned land, as long as it does not disturb the occupier.

Project managers may enter properties to investigate possible new infrastructure, alterations or maintenance.

A select committee changed the bill to constrain access, warning that unfettered access may be "very intrusive".

Public meetings had been told that infrastructure managers would need to seek prior consent before coming onto land, except in the case of emergency.

According to the new law, though, a right of access may be exercised "without prior notice to the occupier or owner of the land, as long as the access does not disturb the occupier, the land or vegetation on it in more than a minor way".

Prior reasonable notice is required once the project manager is ready to actually do the construction, alterations or maintenance.

Parliament made some changes to the bill, in response to the select committee concerns: it inserted the caveat that infrastructure officials should not disturb the occupiers when they come onto the land.