News from the field

'News from the field' provides a regional roundup of public access topics being
worked on by the New Zealand Walking Access Commission's regional field advisor network. In each edition, two field advisors will update readers with the latest from their region.

Rod McGregor, Taranaki and Manawatu
Walking and cycling are popular forms of recreation in the Manawatu. The flat contours and scenic access routes surrounding Palmerston North and a large student population see many people enjoying the area's public corridors.

A new walkway will soon be added to this network in the city's outskirts near Bunnythorpe as a part of the national Te Araroa walking trail. Completion of the walkway had been on hold while negotiations were carried out with a farmer who had placed a deer fence across Sangsters Road: an unformed legal road earmarked for the walkway route.

Subsequent meetings between the Commission, Manawatu District Council and interested farmers have resolved the issue, with all parties agreeing to remove the obstruction and re-fence a section of the unformed legal road boundary. The new boundary fence will allow adjacent farmers to control their stock and will also protect walkers from large animals such as deer.

Further east, in South Taranaki, one of the Commission's focuses is on restoring access in the Waitotara area. Public access to this area, particularly Train's Hut, and the large Department of Conservation (DOC) estate beyond, is limited due to obstructions across an unformed legal road. The Commission is working with the South Taranaki District Council to restore access to the unformed legal road, on behalf of local iwi, DOC and recreation and tramping groups. The council has committed to remedy the situation in a timely manner, which is a real gain for the public in this beautiful area.

Noel Beggs, South Otago and Southland
It has been pleasing to see awareness of the New Zealand Walking Access Commission increase in Otago and Southland.
Along with general enquiries about rights of access to different types of reserve land, one of the most common topics of interest is unformed legal road. This is not surprising given that 25 per cent of New Zealand's unformed legal roads are within Otago and Southland. Southland District Council administers an estimated 4,700km, closely followed in the distance stakes by Clutha District Council and Central Otago District Council.

I have often been asked to comment on aspects of potential road stopping proposals, or mediate in cases where access over an unformed legal road has been denied. In some cases an adjoining landholder has not realised an unformed legal road exists alongside their property, and resolution is reached when they are informed of the rights of access a legal road provides.

Another pleasing development has been a steady increase in the number of landholders requesting signs to mark voluntarily granted access over their own private land. A recent sign project in conjunction with Southland Fish & Game Council and the owner of Nokomai Station in Northern Southland has seen signs erected to show agreed access to parts of the Upper Mataura River. The signs provide access points for anglers, guidelines for camping at a long established freedom camping spot in the area, and information about responsible behaviour in the outdoors.

Elsewhere in Southland and Otago, the Commission has been involved in ensuring perpetual walking access is put in place on properties which have been sold under Overseas Investment Office conditions. Some resident landowners have also approached me with the view of placing access easements on their properties. This is a truly positive result for the New Zealand public.