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Singer Shania says stay away

HER last album Come On Over sold 34 million copies worldwide and helped propel the once down-to-earth country singer to stardom.

But it has emerged that that is the last thing that Shania Twain wants people to do. Especially ramblers. They, apparently, don’t impress her much.

Like Madonna and her husband Guy Ritchie before her, Twain and her reclusive other half, Robert "Mutt" Lange have upset the woolly-hatted brigade with their plans to fight countryside access laws.

The Canadian star - who has become guarded over her private life to the point of insisting that her record company does not sell or promote her albums where she lives in Switzerland - is waiting for approval to buy Motatapu Station, a 42,000-acre sheep farm at Wanaka, New Zealand.

As a condition, the couple must comply with government requirements to give hikers, mountain bikers and hunters access to the land. But to preserve her privacy Twain has proposed a new hiking trail across land belonging to neighbours.

Twain and Lange, a heavy-metal music producer, have offered to pay for two huts and a track from Lake Wanaka to Arrowtown, near the Southern Alps, so that any offending hikers will pass them by.

The neighbours, Don and Vicky McRae, said they were "totally shocked" by the plan to use their land, the Otago Daily Times reported. Ms McRae said the track would affect their deer-farming operations and the terrain was treacherous.

Twain and Lange have reportedly offered NZ$16 million (6 million) for the ranch - which is four times a government valuation for the property. Lange, with whom Twain has a three-year-old son, was recently reported to value his privacy so much that he tried to buy the rights to every photo ever taken of him.

In a recent interview, Twain said: "We just have to have boundaries in order to keep some normalcy in our lives. We just sort of decided - especially with me being in the spotlight so much - that I would associate myself with cameras and with the spotlight when it’s related to my music and when it’s not, then I won’t be there."

She added: "Mutt ... doesn’t desire the spotlight and it’s pretty hard to avoid it if you’re married to a famous person. So we don’t go anywhere together when I’m doing that sort of stuff."

Despite the couple’s generous offer for the farm, the deal is by no means assured.

In New Zealand, land access is a hot issue. There is deeply-felt concern that foreigners are buying up some of the nation’s most prized real estate and reducing access to beaches and mountain regions.

Michael Cullen, the finance minister and one of two ministers who must approve the deal, said last month that it would not go through unless public access to the property was maintained.

The battle has parallels with Madonna’s bid in June to stop ramblers traipsing over parts of her 1,200-acre Ashcombe estate on the Wiltshire-Dorset border.

Her lawyers had argued before a public inquiry that a demand from the Countryside Agency to let walkers on to areas regarded as open countryside would bring strangers close to her home, compromising her privacy and security.

In the end, both sides claimed a partial victory. Although an inquiry ruled that there was no right of access to 15 out of 17 parcels of land under dispute, it meant that ramblers were still left with about half the contested area to enjoy. The Countryside Agency welcomed the decision.

Not all stars desperate to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the great unwashed have found themselves mired in such controversy.

When Victoria and David Beckham wanted to expand the sterile zone around their seven-bedroom mock Georgian mansion in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, they simply bought their neighbours’ homes. Since moving in 1999, they have bought the estate’s gatehouse and a bungalow next door.

This week, another neighbour, Mick Allen, a detective superintendent at Scotland Yard, who has lived in the house next to "Beckingham Palace" for 14 years, was said to be delighted with negotiations to sell up for a reported 750,000.

 
 
 

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