Ric Cullinane outdoors

Asking politely will protect outdoor access for others

Ric Cullinane says treating farmers and landholders with respect is the best way to gain access to private land. 

Cullinane is the chief executive | tumuaki of the Walking Access Commission Ara Hīkoi Aotearoa. He says that many farmers and other landowners share their land with hunters and anglers. Most people protect and grow this access by treating farmers politely – asking for permission and respecting conditions of access. 

But Cullinane says some farmers are fed up with a small minority of hunters shooting close to buildings. Landowners are also annoyed with campervans getting stuck, people walking across private land without asking, and people being rude or discourteous.  

“Good behaviour promotes and protects access to the outdoors for all of us.” 

"Farmers who regularly face polite people walking across their land will continue to allow access next summer and the summer after," says Cullinane. 

New Zealanders have a lot of public access to the outdoors that they do not need to ask permission to use. This can include unformed legal roads, easements and esplanade strips that cross farms. Where these exist, they can give hunters, anglers and others access to rivers, bush and lakes.  

But where legal public access does not exist, people should always ask first. Many landholders will say 'yes' if people ask in advance and politely, says Cullinane.  

"They may have conditions to protect their land, their animals or their family. Find out and abide by those conditions. For instance, it’s not a big deal to leave your dog at home, refrain from lighting fires or stay on the track."   

In some cases, it may be sensible and polite to let the adjacent landowner know or check in with them even if legal public access routes that go through a farm. Many farms have unformed legal roads that the farmer may not be aware of. They may have a more suitable track that does not follow the unformed road that they’re happy for people to use. A quick conversation beforehand will solve most problems, says Cullinane. 

The Commission publishes an Outdoor Access Code. The code explains people’s rights and responsibilities when outdoors. It has specific advice for people with 4WDs, dogs and guns.  

Outdoor Access Code

Access to privately owned land is a privilege, not a right. Sometimes it is hard to find the right person to ask for permission. So, the Commission also offers free signs for landowners. These signs mark access routes for people to use when crossing landholders' properties. By showing an approved route across a property, the signs can help reduce conflict over public access to private land. The signs also make it easy for landholders to provide their contact details and list any conditions of access. They show the willingness of landholders to make their land available to the public. 

Information about free signs