Bulls Run Road Upper Hutt ULR

Unformed Upper Hutt road saved for future cyclists

A local Pinehaven resident has teamed up with Herenga ā Nuku to convince his council to keep legal access to an unformed legal road.

Three years ago, property developing company Riverstone Development UH Ltd applied to the Upper Hutt City Council to stop a section of Bulls Run Road, an unformed legal road, and have it sold to the adjoining owners. In November 2020, the council notified its intention to stop the road.

The local resident, Pat van Berkel, who describes himself as “an ordinary citizen that enjoys walking and running trails, and [who is] aware of the encroaching urbanisation causing the loss of nature and recreation opportunities,” was one of two people who objected to the stopping.

Pat van Berkel noted the road could, in the future, be part of a cycleway that connects to the Hutt River Trail and requested that Council investigate its feasibility.

“There is also the possibility of joining the Remutaka Incline trail through Tunnel Gully and Maymorn to unformed roads Swamp Rd and Sierra Way. In time that could connect to the hills of Pinehaven and then through the unformed Kiln Rd on the Silverstream Spur, to the Hutt River Trail,” he said.

As well as lodging an objection, he also contacted Herenga ā Nuku for help. Our regional field advisor, David Barnes, supported the case.

The case sat for some time while the developer considered its next step after the objections — a trip to the Environment Court. The council’s position was that it would only oppose the objections in the Environment Court if it was at the developer’s cost.

David was pleased that the council made effective use of the Guidelines for the Management of Unformed Legal Roads when it made its decisions. He referred the council and the developer to an important Environment Court case, Upper Hutt City Council v Akatarawa Recreational Access Committee W21/2003. In deciding this case, Judge Sheppard noted:

A public road, even one that is unformed, may be an asset. It would be difficult to replace. If a public road is valued by the public, or sections of it, for use within the scope of the purpose of a public road, that value deserves to be weighed against whatever cause is shown for stopping it as road and disposing of the land.

This approach has served as an important precedent for two decades.

This month the developer notified Upper Hutt City Council that it would not proceed to the Environment Court. The unformed legal road would remain as public access.

David says this is a good outcome.

“I don’t see people walking on the road next weekend, but this decision future-proofs it. The council can use unformed legal roads like this one to support walkers, bikers and other recreationists get between Akatarawa Forest Regional Park and the Hutt River,” he says.