We aim to provide people with free, certain, enduring and practical access to the whenua.
Herenga ā Nuku Aotearoa is the Crown agent responsible for providing leadership on access to the outdoors. We administer a national strategy on outdoor access, including tracks and trails. We map outdoor access, provide information to the public, oversee a code of responsible conduct in the outdoors, help resolve access disputes and negotiate new access.
The Walking Access Act 2008 is our governing legislation. Herenga ā Nuku has an office in Wellington and a network of regional field advisors throughout New Zealand. An independent board governs our work.
To secure public access across a variety of land types, Herenga ā Nuku works with other government agencies such as the Department of Conservation (DOC), Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) and Waka Kotahi, and alongside local government, iwi, private landholders, industry representatives and community groups.
We recognise mana whenua rights and interests in whenua. We ensure mana whenua can uphold kaitiakitanga over land. We partner with iwi, hapū and other Māori organisations.
Legal and political expectations
The direction for our work comes from three sources:
- The Walking Access Act 2008. This Act provides our statutory purpose — to provide the New Zealand public with free, certain, enduring and practical access to the outdoors.
- Recommendations from the independent review of the Walking Access Act 2008. This report recommends that Herenga ā Nuku expand its scope to partner more closely with Māori, integrate with Te Araroa, provide greater support to tracks and trails groups and continue its strategic regional work.
- The Minister’s Letter of Expectations. The Minister’s 2023-2024 letter of expectations requires Herenga ā Nuku to create new outdoor access opportunities, including through its strategic regional projects, continue to develop its digital maps, continue progressing its Māori partnership and engagement strategy and continue to grow and support its nationwide network of track-building groups.
These three documents inform our two strategic documents: our Statement of Intent (five-year time frame) and our Statement of Performance Expectations (one-year time frame).
The following factors in our current environment inform our strategy.
- People want to connect to our shared history through the outdoors. In particular, mana whenua want to protect places of historical significance and ensure the history linked to those sites is part of New Zealand’s general historical record.
- Better connections to whenua and between communities support the government’s wellbeing approach and all four capitals in Treasury’s Livings Standards Framework: natural, human, social and financial.
- A better network of active transport tracks and trails helps us respond to climate change by reducing our carbon emissions and adapting to the worst effects before they cause damage and destruction.
- Improved access to the outdoors and outdoor recreation improves people’s mental and physical wellbeing.
- Enabling and promoting active transport improves health, reduces congestion, protects the environment and connects communities.
- Supporting the rapidly growing numbers of community groups seeking support, funding, advice, and connections enables them to create new public access for recreational, social and economic benefits.
- Supporting iwi access to culturally significant sites and areas provides opportunities for Māori kaitiakitanga and motuhaketanga.
- Developing local tracks supports people looking for ways to connect with the outdoors.
Our purpose – herea te whenua ki te tangata, tangata ki te whenua
To provide New Zealanders with free, certain, enduring and practical access to the outdoors.
New Zealanders value our connection to te taiao. Our purpose is to connect people and places. We will work to provide people with free, certain, enduring and practical access to the whenua.
We want a network of tracks, trails and public access that allow people to walk out of their home and into nature. We want people to be able to walk, bike or ride horses – for recreation and to connect with whenua. We also want to connect people to ngā hapori whanui, their whanau, their schools, shops and gathering places.
Our mission – what we intend to achieve
To protect and enhance public access to the outdoors for everyone in Aotearoa.
We will lead national development of public access to the outdoors. We are the organisation that helps communities to work on access to whenua.
We will work with central and local government agencies, iwi, hapū, organisations and community groups to create public access opportunities that support healthy and prosperous communities.
Our outcomes and priorities
The following outcomes are important to our success:
- Public access to the outdoors is maintained and enhanced.
- Tangata whenua oranga is enhanced through improved outdoor access.
- Communities are supported to improve outdoor access in their rohe.
- People have access to accurate information about public accessto the outdoors.
- People feel confident engaging in issues relating to public access to the outdoors.
We will achieve these outcomes through our daily work and by implementing recommendations that arise from the Report on the Findings of the Review of the Walking Access Act 2008 and the Minister’s Letter of Expectations 2023.
These are the Minister’s 2023-2024 priorities for Herenga ā Nuku:
1. Create new outdoor access opportunities, including progressing regional projects and partnering with Te Araroa
By coordinating trails groups, mana whenua, local government, private landholders and government agencies, communities can develop networks of tracks and trails.
These networks of trails support health, community wellbeing, active transport, protecting our shared culture and heritage and caring for our environment.
The leadership we provide on our regional projects in Tairāwhiti, Franklin-North Waikato and Pūhoi to Mangawhai helps communities to develop a comprehensive network of tracks and trails that connect them to the environment and each other.
When we negotiate and develop walking access, we will also include cycling access. Cycling is becoming increasingly popular as a mode of active transport, recreation, and tourist activity. We can help retrofit good cycling infrastructure to our existing tracks and trails and we can develop new cycleways.
Cycling infrastructure is a key priority for many local councils and government agencies. We have the expertise to support these organisations in developing their cycle path networks.
We will continue to develop our partnership with Te Araroa Trust, developing and improving trail management. Te Araroa is growing from being a trail for a small number of dedicated through-walkers to a trail that all New Zealanders can enjoy and complete in segments over their lifetime. Our mapping expertise and regional field advisers help move walking trails off busy roads. Our operational support means the Trust and its volunteers can focus on implementing its strategy.
2. Develop a comprehensive set of digital maps of public access
Our outdoor access mapping system is a series of interactive maps showing New Zealanders where they have outdoor public access. By maintaining and enhancing these maps, we ensure people can use them to develop networks of tracks and trails they can share with their communities. This support includes integrating Te Araroa’s GIS needs into our digital maps.
Our partnerships with organisations such as LINZ, DOC and councils ensure our maps remain up-to-date and accurate.
3. Progress our Māori partnership and engagement to develop new access opportunities for Māori
We will continue progressing our Māori partnership and engagement strategy to address barriers to public access. We will support wider government efforts to unlock the potential of Māori heritage and history. Herenga ā Nuku is learning how to work more closely with Māori groups. As we lift our capability, we can better support the Crown’s Tiriti obligations and Māori mana motuhake.
4. Grow and support a nationwide network of community track-building groups
We will build our support for regional and local volunteer groups and trusts involved in walkways, tracks, trails and public access to the New Zealand outdoors. Many tracks are built and maintained by groups of volunteers. We can support these local people with their important mahi by connecting them with central and local government agencies. We can provide advice, a space to share ideas and grants to help secure legal public access.
We will also promote and lead engagement between these groups and mana whenua.
Our outputs – how we deliver
Our ongoing work also contributes to these outcomes. These are the outputs we intend to deliver on our outcomes:
Outcome 1: Public access to the outdoors is maintained and enhanced
When we achieve this outcome, people have more opportunities to connect with te taiao and to experience nature, either through recreation or active transport. Good public access to the outdoors supports improved mental and physical health, connection to the environment, connection within and between communities, low emissions transport and sustainable regional economic development.
We will know public access to the outdoors is maintained and enhanced when:
- enhanced access to the outdoors, and an improved network of walkways and trails, allow people to connect to their communities by cycling, walking and other outdoor recreation
- more of Te Araroa journeys through scenic off-road trails rather than the open road, giving walkers a safer and more enjoyable journey.
Our performance measures track:
- the number of cases opened relating to access opportunities
- the cumulative number of active and closed operational cases that support Te Araroaa.
Outcome 2: Tangata whenua oranga is enhanced through improved outdoor access.
Access to and engagement with the outdoors is not the only influence on orangatanga, but it is an established and research-proven influence.
Tangata whenua participation in the outdoors is significantly less than non-Māori. Increasing outdoor access removes a significant barrier to tangata whenua participation. Oranga is therefore enhanced physically, socially and spiritually.
Specific elements of orangatanga that relate to public access to the outdoors include physical activity, connection with taiao, connection with korero a tupuna, social connection and whakataetae. Public access also protects and enhances the mauri of the whenua, which affects orangatanga.
We will know the oranga of tangata whenua is enhanced through improved outdoor access when:
- mana whenua are involved in cases to create new access or to maintain or enhance existing access.
Our approach to outdoor access is based on an understanding of and respect for mana whenua and their tikanga.
Our performance measures track:
- the percentage of operational cases that involve mana whenua/tangata whenua
- the percentage of tangata whenua/mana whenua stakeholders and potential stakeholders that recognise Herenga ā Nuku as an organisation that upholds mana motuhake.
Outcome 3: People can access accurate information about public access to the outdoors
Supporting communities to improve their local access to outdoors opportunities empowers those communities. It allows them to design and manage solutions to the issues they face.
That can range from small recreation and conservation groups that want access to do their activity, to large projects involving multiple parties that create a network of connections across an entire region.
We will know communities are supported to improve outdoor access in their rohe when:
- regional communities have strategies that create links between their local communities
- local groups have access to the right information and advice
- local groups are able to build enduring, local connections with landholders, local councils and other interested parties.
Our performance measures track:
- the number of service hits to our public map
- the number of people accessing digital information on rights, responsibilities and appropriate behaviour in the outdoors
- the percentage of stakeholders and potential stakeholders satisfied that Herenga ā Nuku provides useful advice on outdoor access.
Outcome 4: Communities are supported to improve outdoor access in their rohe
When we provide people with accurate, helpful information about public access to the outdoors, we enable them to make informed choices. This includes information about what access is available, such as maps and explanations of the nature of various forms of public access, as well as information about behaviour, such as respecting the land and the people who care for that land.
We will know people have access to accurate information about public access to the outdoors when:
- people use our digital mapping systems
- people are aware of information about access to the outdoors and about behaving responsibly outdoors
- the information we publish is useful, accessible and up to date.
Our performance measures track:
- the number of active and completed regional projects Herenga ā Nuku supports
- the number of external community-based meetings or workshops we facilitate.
Outcome 5: People feel confident engaging in issues relating to public access to the outdoors
People’s trust in Herenga ā Nuku comes when our actions demonstrate competence, capability, reliability, transparency and motivation to improve public wellbeing (genuinely caring for others’ experience and wellbeing).
If people trust Herenga ā Nuku and are confident that we provide reliable, credible advice and ethical leadership they will be more confident advocating to maintain and enhance public access to the outdoors.
We will know people feel confident engaging in issues relating to public access to the outdoors when:
- we are a reliable and efficient agency that engages effectively with all people who have an interest in outdoor access issues
- individuals and organisations recognise us as an independent, unbiased and trustworthy agency that negotiates with all parties in good faith.
Our performance measures track:
- the percentage of enquiries acknowledged within 5 working days
- the percentage of stakeholders and potential stakeholders who see Herenga ā Nuku as influencing outdoor access issues.