Cyclone Ita water rise in Auckland New Zealand b
Photo by Andym5855

Don’t sacrifice public access to private property walls

Herenga ā Nuku Aotearoa, the Outdoor Access Commission, says public access to the water should not be squeezed out by private landowners barricading their property from rising waters.

These recent terrible storms have caused many landholders near riverbanks or beside the coast to consider building walls between themselves and the water.

Herenga ā Nuku Chief Executive Ric Cullinane says it is important that these seawalls and barricades do not obstruct public access to the outdoors for other New Zealanders.

"As the sea rises and pushes up against private property, the public access strip that often sits between the water and private land gets pinched."

For the most part, our planning regulations protect public access as we adapt. But part of the problem is incremental encroachment from private landholders into neighbouring public space. Tennis courts, BBQ spaces and gazebo gardens, along with actual walls, can make people walking past feel as though they are trespassing, even when they are on public land.

Aotearoa’s rivers regularly change course, and the sea erodes coastal land. And traditionally, public access along those rivers and the seas has often shifted back and forth with the water. But if private landholders build outwards and upwards, the public access strips between private land and the water could be sacrificed.

Cullinane says that while public access rights along waterways do not give Kiwi access to all beaches and rivers, it is a concept close to most New Zealanders’ hearts, and is worth protecting and enhancing.

"Public access along marine areas and rivers is an important, if incomplete, part of our public access network. Anyone can walk along most beaches and many rivers. It connects us to both land and water," says Cullinane.