Sandfly Bay Beach Otago
Photo by Catriona Ward


Access to New Zealand’s outdoors is part of who we are, part of our nation’s heritage and culture. Enjoyment of our beaches, rivers, and mountains is seen as the birthright of all our people.

The New Zealand Walking Access Commission respects the need to protect private property rights. We must also ensure that the rights of the public are not impeded.

However, public rights of access to beaches, rivers, and mountains are not always certain, and precise locations can be hard to establish. Access frequently relies on landholders’ goodwill in allowing people to cross private land. The Commission’s aim for the Outoor Access Code (the Code) is to help reduce conflict and boost behaviour standards, as well as to help access users and land managers to understand and respect each others’ interests.

Urban New Zealanders and many overseas visitors increasingly lack knowledge about farming and rural practices. How to behave responsibly with respect to farm livestock and other property isn’t always well understood. There is also a need to build an understanding that formal public access to and along lakes, rivers and the coast is fragmented, and that permission needs to be obtained to cross private land. When asked, many land managers readily allow access. However, this is a privilege and access may be refused or conditions applied.

Landholders and managers also need to recognise that in places there are public rights of access, such as use of unformed legal roads, esplanade reserves and marginal strips, even though these may not be fenced and exact locations can be hard to determine.

The Code, therefore, is relevant to both public and private land and is applicable to all walking access whether over legal access ways, negotiated public access over private land, or access over private land by permission.

The Commission recognises that there are other organisations providing information on aspects of appropriate behaviour in the New Zealand outdoors. We have listed their resources dealing with associated access issues such as outdoor safety, firearm safety and minimising impact on the environment as appendices.

As the leadership agency we consider that working in close partnership with others, supporting communities and individuals, will be the most effective way to achieve improvements in walking access arrangements.

John Acland

Chairperson, 2010