Review of the Walking Access Act

Controlling Authorities

Controlling Authorities are appointed under sections 35 and 36 of the Act. They are responsible for general promotion and maintenance, including erecting poles or markers, stiles, fences or other necessary structures, providing for the proper control and use of the walkway, and establishing required facilities and amenities (for which charges for use can be imposed). 17

Under section 35, a department, local authority, public body, or the Commissioner of Crown Lands can be appointed as a Controlling Authority. The Commission can also be a Controlling Authority, in the case of another body not being appointed under sections 35 or 36. Current provisions in the Act do not allow for a non-public body, such as community groups or iwi, to take on this role.

Nearly all controlling authorities at the moment are DOC or council bodies. However, it is increasingly challenging to find a public body willing to take on the Controlling Authority role as a result of the time and costs associated with development, infrastructure and maintenance. Further, access is increasingly being managed and maintained by community trusts, iwi and local access groups, albeit not in a formal capacity. To address this issue, the Public Feedback Paper asked whether the types of organisations that can be Controlling Authorities should be expanded to include non-public bodies.

Feedback conveyed general support for community and Māori groups being able to take on this role.

However, this support was often tied to the need for greater resourcing being made available to ensure such groups could meet the costs of track management and maintenance. The role of the Commission in providing greater support to meet infrastructure needs is addressed in detail under Challenges and future requirements.

Submitters identified a range of benefits from expanding Controlling Authorities to include non-public bodies, as well as a number of risks to be addressed.

Benefits from including non-public bodies

Submitters identified the following benefits from expanding Controlling Authorities to include non-public bodies such as community groups and iwi or other relevant Māori groups:

  • such groups have greater local knowledge, including about access needs and priorities. This would allow them to make informed decisions about the types of access needed on public access ways, as well as to advise on or impose appropriate access conditions according to the local context;
  • allowing Māori groups to take on the role of Controlling Authority could improve and reflect the value of kaitiakitanga for Māori;
  • local buy-in and empowerment to manage access in their community would be strengthened; and
  • pressure on public agencies would reduce, and there would be potential for more effective, responsive maintenance.

Potential risks and solutions

A number of risks were identified that would need to be addressed to enable non-public bodies to take on the role of Controlling Authority. These risks, along with potential solutions, are listed below:

  • non-public groups may not be enduring, with the exception of Māori groups. This could be addressed by Controlling Authority responsibilities reverting to the Commission in the case of a non-public body no longer being capable of fulfilling this role (for instance, it ceases to exist). This would not require legislative amendments as under the current provisions the Commission has the power to revoke a body’s Controlling Authority status, taking on the role in its place;
  • non-public bodies might lack the capability to undertake the functions of a Controlling Authority. To resolve this, it was suggested there be specific criteria that groups must meet before they could be appointed, such as appropriate governance structures. Other submitters suggested a partnership model with the Commission, with the two bodies sharing Controlling Authority responsibilities. However, additional resourcing would be required for the Commission to take on the role of Controlling Authority in partnership with non-public groups;
  • non-public bodies may not have the resourcing to take on this role. Funding support could address this, with submitters suggesting that the Commission play a greater role in providing funding for necessary infrastructure or supporting groups to access funding from other sources such as the TIF (see Challenges and future requirements);
  • there could be bias in favour of specific access user groups or activities. This did not include where there are cultural reasons for limiting access, as addressed in detail under Māori Interests. Many submitters noted this could be addressed by requirements for transparency and accountability in decisions made about public access way management, supplemented by Commission monitoring. However, additional resourcing would be required for the Commission to take on a monitoring role;
  • the risk of profiteering was raised. However, as the purpose of the Act includes ‘free’ access, non- public bodies would not be able to impose charges, except for the use of facilities and amenities as currently provided for under section 37 of the Act;
  • non-public bodies may not have the capacity, will, or understanding to provide for diverse access needs, including for people with a disability. The Commission could address this through greater promotion of equity of access, as addressed through Recommendation 7 under Challenges and future requirements; and
  • multiple types of Controlling Authorities could result in access management inconsistency and confusion. However, this has not been a problem under the current Act which allows for a variety of public bodies to carry out this role. Further, the functions of Controlling Authorities are clearly set out in section 37 to provide guidance and consistency in management of walkways.

‘Controlling Authority’ title

Feedback suggested that the title ‘Controlling Authority’ has a negative connotation, and that having a name that conveys Māori inclusivity would be beneficial. The most frequent suggestions were ‘kaitiaki’ or ‘guardians’. Other suggestions included Active Access Rangers, and New Zealand Pathways Group.

However, this review finds that the title ‘Controlling Authority’ should remain in the Act as it is a recognised legal term. For example the Land Transport Management Act 2003 contains the term ‘road controlling authority’ to define the authority that controls a road. Retaining this title in the Act would not prevent a Controlling Authority from using a different operating name, such as kaitiaki.

Recommendation 22: That further investigation be undertaken on:

  1. amendments being made to section 35 of the Walking Access Act 2008 to expand Controlling Authorities to include non-public bodies, such as community and Māori groups; and

  2. standards or requirements being developed by the Commission, which must be met by non-public bodies before appointment as a Controlling Authority. These standards or requirements are for the purpose of ensuring that non-public bodies have the capability to take on the role of Controlling Authority.

Recommendation 23: That further investigation be undertaken on:

  1. how the Commission could partner with non-public bodies to undertake the role of Controlling Authority; and

  2. the scope of a monitoring role for the Commission where non-public bodies are appointed as a Controlling Authority.


17 Functions and powers of controlling authorities are listed in the Walking Access Act 2008, Section 37.