News from the field - December 2013

'News from the field' provides a roundup of public access topics being worked on by the New Zealand Walking Access Commission's regional field advisors. This month, we hear from Geoff Holgate (Canterbury) and Rod McGregor (Taranaki and Manawatu).

Geoff Holgate (Canterbury)

Geoff Holgate imageThere's an old saying that variety is the spice of life, and my work as the Canterbury Regional Field Advisor certainly doesn't lack in variety.

A quick look at the enquiries I have on hand indicates that while approximately 45 per cent of them are about disagreements over public access, some 26 per cent are seeking new or additional public access. Assessing access requirements following Overseas Investment Office approval for land purchases and general access queries make up the balance of my current enquiries.

Many disagreements over public access involve unformed legal roads and, as local territorial authorities are responsible for these roads, a considerable amount of my time is spent liaising with councils in the region.

Many councils are understandably concerned about potential costs associated with their management of unformed legal roads but, in practice, the main requirement is simply to uphold the right of people to walk on these roads. Rather than being seen as a roading liability, many unformed legal roads are actually a recreational asset for councils.

It's always satisfying working with local community groups, and this has certainly been the case in my dealings with Te Kohaka o Tuhaitara Trust to restore tracks within the Tuhaitara Coastal Park, the Hurunui Trails Trust on the Waipara Valley Vineyard Loop and a group at Kurow working to establish local walking and biking routes.

These groups demonstrate a real passion for improving access and enabling more people to appreciate and enjoy their local environment.

Rod McGregor (Taranaki and Manawatu)

Rod McGregor imageOne of the recent highlights of my work has been a multi-party agreement to create a new walkway in the northern Manawatu Gorge.

The Commission was approached by the Department of Conservation (DOC) to assist with the creation of the walkway, which will provide new access from Tararua District Council land, across Meridian Energy's Te Apiti wind farm to a DOC reserve, before utilising an existing rail corridor. This will potentially create a loop to Ashurst and link up with the existing Ashurst to Palmerston North walkway and cycleway.

The walkway will also take in sites of geographical and cultural interest and cross previously inaccessible DOC land and it is hoped it will replicate the success of the popular existing walkway in the southern part of the gorge.

After initial conversations with Meridian Energy, where a similar approach to the successful public access initiative at its Makara wind farm was discussed, a meeting was arranged with DOC, Horizons Regional Council, Meridian Energy, Palmerston North City Council, Tararua District Council and the Commission to gauge support for the new walkway.

There was consensus and enthusiasm from all parties to proceed with the project and, where appropriate, to make land available. Meridian Energy has agreed to allow access through the wind farm and walkway planning will begin shortly.

The Commission will continue to provide assistance as required and I have offered to facilitate a walkway easement under the Walking Access Act 2008.

Page last updated: Sep 8, 2020, 3:46 PM