The NZCA has developed ‘bottom line’ principles that should apply to arrangements for public walking access to any natural or historic resource for recreation or tourism purposes.

Adopted: 15 April 2006
Reviewed and amended 24 August 2022


Acknowledging that to the extent that the use of any natural or historic resource for recreation or tourism is not inconsistent with its conservation, Te Papa Atawhai / Department of Conservation’s duties include fostering the use of natural and historic resources for recreation;[1]


Herenga ā Nuku Aotearoa / Outdoor Access Commission provides national leadership on walking access issues and is uniquely placed to enhance free, certain, enduring, and practical walking access to the New Zealand outdoors and to strengthen our country’s access culture and heritage;[2]


The kaitiaki and mana whakahaere responsibilities of manawhenua to protect and care for wāhi tapu, wāhi taonga and whenua Māori in acccordance with tikanga Māori.

The NZCA has developed the following principles to maintain and foster public walking access.

NZCA Principles

  1. There should be free, certain, enduring, and practical walking access to public conservation land.
  2. Where access is only available across private land, this access should be negotiated.
  3. All public conservation land should be able to be freely and reasonably accessed by foot, where consistent with the values and tikanga at place.
  4. Herenga ā Nuku Aotearoa is best placed to negotiate recreational access across private land on behalf of the public and should thus lead such negotiations as far as is practicable.[3]

To this end, the NZCA contends:

  1. Public walking access to publicly owned areas should be protected in law and enhanced where there is poor or no practicable access provision.
  2. As well as legal recognition, the provision of walking access needs to be assured in terms of practical and physical accessibility on the ground.
  3. Enduring access arrangements that are acceptable to both landholders and the public are needed in cases where practical access to public conservation land is over privately occupied land.
  4. Existing access law should be implemented by local government and public agencies, with leadership from Herenga ā Nuku Aotearoa. This includes, but is not limited to, territorial authorities’ duty to take action against obstructions on public roads and road closures.
  5. To preserve present, future, and potential public access, closing of roads and unformed legal roads is opposed.
  6. Existing marginal strips and esplanade reserves/strips need to be preserved for the benefit of all New Zealanders. Existing provisions within the Conservation Act 1987 and Resource Management Act 1991 need to be fully utilised, and in some cases strengthened, to extend and secure public access to the coast and waterways, including removing gaps in the existing network. Waivers to the provision of esplanade reserves and marginal strips should only occur in exceptional circumstances. Wherever possible, public access ways alongside waterways and the coast should be ambulatory, i.e. move with the waterway/coastline.
  7. Purchase of land by overseas interest creates an opportunity to enhance walking access under the provisions of the Overseas Investment Act 2005.
  8. Opportunity for access across pastoral lease land should be explored when the opportunity arises.

[1] Conservation Act 1987 section 6(e)

[2] Walking Access Act 2008

[3] Established by section 6 of the Walking Access Act 2008

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