Working together brings results

By Maggie Bayfield, Board Member, New Zealand Walking Access Commission.

There are times in the past when those of us with an interest in outdoor access have had polarised views. We've sometimes acted a bit like a dysfunctional family – disagreeing, giving each other the silent treatment and even calling each other names.

But like most Kiwi families, it was only a matter of time before we put aside our differences and started to work together. Over the past two years, collaboration between landholder groups, recreational organisations and councils has improved.

Not only have we seen dozens of new walking routes and cycle ways open across the country, including the 3,000km Te Araroa trail, but we've also seen more organisations in the sector working together towards mutually beneficial goals.

This shift from conflict to collaboration has been a major focus for the New Zealand Walking Access Commission, and it's a great thing for public access.

One of the Commission's major pushes has been the Outdoor Access Code. The Code was developed in partnership with recreational and landholder groups to help people know how to behave and do the right thing when accessing the outdoors. It plays an important role in bridging that urban-rural divide and increasing understanding.

The Commission also has partnerships in place with Federated Farmers New Zealand and Rural Women New Zealand to supply signs to landholders who want to signpost access routes they have voluntarily granted across their land.

Last, but by no means least, the Walking Access Mapping System has played a role in fostering collaboration. The information provided through the mapping system has helped many community groups plan and put proposals for new walkways to their local councils. The upcoming enhancements will increase the system's power to display outdoor-related information for both recreationalists and landholders.