Education key to outdoor access

I'm sure many of you who live alongside national parks, beautiful rivers and stunning parts of the coast have been approached by members of the public asking for permission to cross your property. Access to the outdoors is a great part of the Kiwi way of life, and granting access to those who ask politely is part of the great New Zealand tradition.

But for that tradition to continue requires trust and mutual understanding.

Those who enjoy the outdoors need landholders to understand their motivations for wanting to access parts of the country that are off the beaten track, and landholders need to be able to trust that people seeking access know how to behave responsibly when crossing their land.

For more than 25 years my wife and I owned and ran a property growing citrus fruit, avocadoes and maize on the edge of a small New Zealand town. People used to ask permission to pick puha off the property and I would tell them where I had sprayed and where I hadn't so they were aware of where the best places to pick it were. It was always appreciated when people accessing the property had an understanding of rural etiquette.

To help build this understanding and foster greater trust between landholders and access seekers, the New Zealand Walking Access Commission is planning to launch a public education programme to teach people about responsible behaviour in the outdoors and the value of access.

The education programme will begin in the coming year, with the goal of increasing awareness of the guidelines included in the Commission's Outdoor Access Code. The Code was developed in collaboration with recreation and landholder groups, including Federated Farmers New Zealand and Rural Women New Zealand, and provides useful information about how to behave in the outdoors, from acting responsibly and asking permission before crossing private land to protecting the environment. Specific guidelines for people crossing private land include “leave gates as they are found – open or closedâ€