Mountain bikers enjoying a trail


We are working on a new way to manage biking on public conservation lands and waters.

What we propose

We propose that Conservation Management Strategies (CMS) list bike-free areas. These are places where bike tracks are not allowed. We can then consider applications for new bike tracks elsewhere, except national parks. This does not mean that the CMS would approve bike tracks everywhere. It allows us to assess applications against clear criteria. Currently, we can’t consider new bike tracks unless they are already identified in the CMS.

How it would work

We would partially review conservation management strategies (CMS). They will include better rules and criteria for biking to guide our decisions. We will streamline this process where we can. We will incorporate the new approach into ongoing CMS reviews. CMS reviews are public processes so everyone can comment.

National parks are not included in this review

National parks make up around one-third of all public conservation land. They are managed under specific legislation and general policy – the National Parks Act 1980 and General Policy for National Parks 2005. This means the national CMS review won’t consider biking in national parks.

Why CMS changes are needed

Currently, we need to review or amend a CMS to allow new biking access if it isn’t specifically identified – at the moment, this is not a simple process.

We receive numerous requests for proposed new bike tracks or to allow biking on existing tracks and we recognise the frustration with our current approach. Therefore, we're taking steps to address the situation through these partial reviews.

Conservation management strategies are statutory documents that specify how natural and cultural heritage resources, recreation and other activities will be managed in a region. 

They must be consistent with Conservation General Policy which provides national guidance for management of public conservation land and waters.

Bikes are treated as vehicles

Waka Kotahi’s definition of vehicles, in the Land Transport Act, includes bikes. This is the definition we have in the Conservation Act, which has been adapted for the Conservation General Policy.

Conservation General Policy contains policies about managing use of vehicles, such as bikes, and other forms of transport on public conservation land, including Policy 9.5(b) which states:

“Conservation management strategies and plans will identify where the use of specified types of vehicles and other forms of transport may be allowed and will establish any conditions of use.”

Up to now we have interpreted and implemented this policy by specifically identifying where vehicles such as bikes and e-bikes could be used.

This means we can only approve new biking opportunities if they are identified in the relevant CMS.

What happens with bike track proposals in the meantime

Any proposed bike tracks will need to be assessed against existing provisions in the relevant CMS. This may mean they can’t be allowed until the CMS has been changed through this partial review process.

Conservation Board engagement

After an initial discussion with conservation board chairs in early September 2022, we consulted with individual conservation boards.

Our generic presentation is available to view. This was tailored for each conservation board to reflect the regional context.

We will be sharing the criteria for bike-free (previously known as no-go) areas as well as the criteria for the assessment for new bike tracks with conservation boards so that they can provide feedback.

External stakeholder workshops

We have set up workshops for people with an interest in how biking is managed on public conservation lands and waters. Please let us know if you would like to attend future workshops.

The first workshop was held on 17 August and covered the context and purpose of the project. The second workshop was held on 7 September and covered Bike-free areas.

You can find the presentations along with some key discussion topics here:

The next workshops are:

  • Thursday 5 October 2023: 12:30 - 14:30 pm – Criteria for the assessment of new bike tracks
  • Thursday 26 October 2023: 12:30 - 14:30 pm – Wrap-up

Our next steps

We are currently undertaking preparatory and planning work to ensure a legally robust review. This requires us to consult with conservation boards and tangata whenua.

We will update this page with the process we intend to use and the necessary timeframe once determined.

Read more on project updates


If you have any questions email us.


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