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News from the field - April 2017
Joint approach to improve access to Ruahine Forest Park
Nicola Henderson (Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa)
Public access to an important part of the Ruahine Forest Park will be secured thanks to an agreement between Central Hawke’s Bay District Council and a local landholder.
The council has agreed to the creation of new legal roads providing improved access to the forest park in exchange for stopping a portion of North Block Road, which adjoins a deer farm.
The new roads will secure access to the start of Sunrise Track leading to Sunrise Hut and Triplex Hut, and the start of the track which leads to Smith Stream Hut. The decision to amend the access arrangements was reached following meetings facilitated by the New Zealand Walking Access Commission and discussions between the council, the owners of the deer farm, and the Department of Conservation.
Tracks across private land to regional parks are vulnerable as they could be lost at any time. An opportunity to negotiate with a landowner is valued where it will ensure enduring public access for future generations. In this case, the farming family worked closely with council and DOC to find practical solutions to clarify legal access and at the same time reduce the effect of public activity on their farming operation. The solution includes a land swap with the council agreeing to realign Unformed Legal Road (ULR) from the centre of the deer farm in exchange for new unformed legal roads to the DOC boundary.
The Department of Conservation has welcomed the collaborative approach and the outcome.
The benefits are:
- Legal access to the start of Sunrise Hut track is secured;
- The commonly used route to the start of Smith Streams Hut track will be legally secured;
- Public activity is directed to the periphery of the farmer’s operational area.
Ruahine Forest Park consists of scenic, bush-covered ranges with a wide range of recreation opportunities. It is enjoyed by tourists and locals, including many families and school groups that regularly make day trips in the area. Although the new legal boundaries will not alter peoples experience of this location, they do provide certainty.
Council has worked for the benefit of the community and cooperation between the landholder, DOC and Council under a process facilitated by NZWAC means access will be secured to this popular spot in the Ruahine range.
Finding a way through unformed legal roads
Inger Perkins (West Coast)
Unformed legal roads (ULRs), often known as paper roads, have been vying for my attention in recent months. Two community groups, some private individuals and two landowners have sought my assistance in their pursuit of their right to use ULRs up and down the West Coast.
Although the maps are clear, it can be challenging for all parties, including district councils who legally manage the roads, to find a way forward that will work for all parties.
For a landholder who may have blocked access (knowingly or not) over a ULR for years, if not decades, change can be stressful. They may feel that their privacy and security is threatened when others assert their rights to pass over a legal road.
So, in each case, the feelings and the situation of these people, generally the owners of neighbouring land or land that is divided by the legal road, must be taken into account in order to reach an understanding and then to ensure the right to use the legal road is enabled with least stress.
My role is to help this process and provide guidance, but ultimately to ensure that the use of the legal road is available to those who seek to use it, whether on foot, horseback, by bicycle or vehicle (where conditions allow).
A road is a road is a road the saying goes, at least here at the Walking Access Commission! And that applies whether it has been grazed, planted or even mined.
The management of unformed legal roads in one council I deal with was vested in their property company a few years ago. Largely as a result of the need to manage iconic West Coast baches on unformed legal roads, the company has a clear policy on recreational and non-recreational occupations of unformed legal road. The policy, revised and adopted on 23rd March this year, is clear on public access: “Occupying activities must not interfere with the public right to pass and re-pass along unformed legal road.” In the case of an authority to mine, the agreement will require the miner to provide an alternative access or bypass, and for fences, there must be an unlocked gate to allow public passage.
With this clarity, I anticipate that progress may be more straightforward and certainly faster now.