Review of the Walking Access Act

Overview of engagement process for this review

In designing the engagement process, the review team considered the wide range of interests in public access to the outdoors. The following key stakeholder groups were identified:

  • the New Zealand public, including individual access users, landowners, Crown land lessees, farmers, recreation groups, community organisations, and tracks and trails trusts;

  • Māori individuals, groups and organisations, including those with existing relationships with the Commission;
  • territorial authorities;
  • central government agencies, particularly those with portfolio responsibilities that intersect with the Act and work of Commission;
  • health, education and social service providers; and
  • non-government organisations with a particular relationship or relevance to the Act and work of the Commission (for example, Te Araroa Trust and New Zealand Cycle Trail Incorporated, and recreation peak bodies). 

In late 2018, early engagement was undertaken with a number of the above-listed groups. This sought to identify issues to inform the formal engagement process that commenced in May 2019. It also included engagement with territorial authorities in March 2019 to explore the intersection between local government responsibilities and the work of the Commission.

The formal public engagement period for the review opened on 17 May 2019, and ran until 2 July 2019. The launch was marked by the publication of the Public Feedback Paper, which captured the issues raised through the early engagement process and contained a series of discussion questions to guide feedback. A summary version of the Public Feedback Paper was also published, along with a Frequently Asked Questions document, and a promotional poster.

The review’s engagement process was advertised widely. In addition to a media release and promotion on MPI’s website and social media platforms, information about the review was distributed to a range of organisations and peak bodies, capturing:

recreational groups; the agricultural, forestry and fishing sectors; tourism-related businesses; iwi; environmental groups; ethnic communities; rural women and other women’s groups; young people; senior citizens; health providers; disability advocacy groups; social service providers; education groups, from early childhood to tertiary level; urban advocacy groups; and territorial authorities.

Public engagement took place in a range of ways, including:

  • a series of open, public meetings, which sought to capture a wide variety of stakeholders across the general public. These meetings were held in late July 2019 in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch. To maximise reach, these meetings were advertised online, via email, on MPI social media platforms, and through various sector networks. For example, the meetings were promoted on recreation and other interest groups’ Facebook pages, and included in newsletters and magazines such as Wilderness Magazine;
  • an online feedback process that allowed the review to reach stakeholders across the country and capture the views of those unable to attend public meetings. Submitters were invited to provide their feedback via an online feedback form (survey) or via email or post;
  • in addition to the public meetings and online feedback process, a specific Māori engagement process was undertaken to allow for exploration of issues unique to Māori. This also allowed the review team to provide a culturally appropriate means of engagement, which may not have been achieved through the public meetings alone. This process included open hui across the country – in Auckland, Taupo, and Gisborne – and targeted conversations with Māori groups and individuals in Christchurch, Nelson, Waikato and the Wairarapa;
  • comprehensive cross-agency engagement, including with central and non-central agencies. These discussions explored policy and operational relationships with the Act and the Commission’s work;
  • a series of targeted meetings with non- government organisations with a particular relationship or relevance to the Act and the work of the Commission; and
  • promotion at events such as Recreation Aotearoa’s Green Pavlova conference and the Federated Farmers’ High Country Conference, to increase awareness of the review among stakeholder groups. Promotion was done via a presentation delivered by MPI or a member of the panel, followed by a question and answer session.

The review team also undertook its own research to supplement, and provide context to, the feedback received through the engagement process.

Results and analysis of feedback

A large amount of feedback was received through the engagement process. A total of 517 completed7 responses were received through the online feedback form. Just under 90 per cent of responders provided feedback as individuals, with the remaining

10 per cent providing feedback on behalf of an organisation, including Māori groups, territorial authorities, recreation groups, and advocacy groups. Almost 80 per cent identified as an ‘access user’, while approximately 25 per cent identified as a ‘landowner’ (noting that there were cross-overs in this data as some responders identified as both). Responses were received across all regions, including:

  • Northland Region: 4.13 per cent;
  • Auckland Region (includes the area from the Bombay Hills up to Wellsford): 10.34 per cent;
  • Waikato Region: 12.14 per cent;
  • Bay of Plenty Region: 7.49 per cent;
  • Gisborne Region: 1.29 per cent;
  • Hawke’s Bay Region: 1.29 per cent;
  • Taranaki Region: 1.29 percent;
  • Manawatū-Whanganui Region: 4.39 per cent;
  • Wellington Region (includes Kāpiti and the Wairarapa): 9.56 per cent;
  • Tasman Region: 3.10 per cent;
  • Nelson Region: 1.55 per cent;
  • Marlborough Region: 6.72 per cent;
  • West Coast Region: 1.55 per cent;
  • Canterbury Region: 15.25 per cent;
  • Otago Region: 13.95 per cent;
  • Southland Region: 2.58 per cent; and
  • Areas outside of these regions: 3.36 per cent.

Approximately 80 per cent of responders identified as ‘New Zealand European’ while 6 per cent identified as New Zealand Māori. There were a small number of responses from other ethnic groups.

In addition to the online feedback form responses, the review team received 121 submissions via post or email. A further 57 email submissions were received prior to the formal engagement period, which were also analysed as part of preparing this report. The emailed and posted submissions included feedback from individuals, peak bodies, territorial authorities, health agencies, Māori groups, and non-government groups.

Three public meetings were held in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, attended by 19, 16, 35 people respectively (not including Panel members or MPI staff). Attendance at the public meetings was often followed up with written feedback via email.

As part of the Māori engagement process, three hui were held in Auckland, Taupo and Gisborne. Attendees represented iwi, hāpu, Māori farmers, and health organisations. The review team also met with Ngāi Tahu in Christchurch. Nine iwi and one Ahu Whenua Trust provided written submissions. Discussions, mostly via phone, were also held with four iwi or hāpu. Lastly, Te Puni Kōkiri, Commission RFAs who have worked with iwi, and the Ngā Whenua Rāhui team within DOC provided perspectives on Māori and access.

While many efforts were made to reach Māori stakeholders, engagement was limited. Māori stakeholders noted a general lack of awareness of the Act and the work of the Commission, primarily as a result of the Act’s limited impact on, and relevance for Māori to date. This issue is discussed in greater detail in Māori interests.

The review team held cross-government discussions with the Treasury, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), the State Services Commission, LINZ (various areas), DOC, NZTA, Tourism New Zealand, MBIE, Ministry of Justice (Te Arawhiti), Te Puni Kōkiri, Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH), Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, Ministry for the Environment (MfE), Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Social Development (MSD), Ministry of Education (MoE), Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Sport New Zealand, and Kiwirail.

Lastly, the review team held four targeted discussions with relevant non-government stakeholders including Te Araroa, New Zealand Cycle Trail Incorporated, QEII National Trust, and the New Zealand Conservation Authority.

All feedback received was considered and recorded. However, it was necessary to apply the agreed scope of the review (as set out in the TOR) to filter some feedback for the purposes of this report and its recommendations. Feedback was then categorised into themes and linked back to the questions posed in the TOR. Ten key themes were identified, which have formed the basis of this report (see Key themes). Each key theme was analysed in-depth to determine whether legislative amendments to the Act, or other changes to the work of the Commission, were necessary or desirable. Recommendations were made accordingly.

All feedback was weighted equally, whether provided through formal written submissions or verbally at public meetings and hui.