Blenheim police turn to Commission for advice on access disputes

Outcome: People access the outdoors responsibly

Recently the police in Marlborough have been turning to the Commission for help with trespass issues.

In one case, the police were uncertain if there was public access through a high country property in the Waihopai Valley. Regional field adviser Penny Wardle used the Commission’s online Walking Access Mapping System (WAMS) and operations advisor Lynda Edwardson searched titles, plans and other documents. Their research confirmed that while there was not practical driving access across the property, people were able to walk on an unformed legal road.

The landholder had consistently refused people access, and the police were uncertain about the legal situation.

After that dispute, Wardle received an invite to talk to the Blenheim police about public access over land and WAMS. She answered a lot of questions the police had about public access, freedom camping, health and safety and trespass.

Since then the police have come back with a couple more inquiries. In one case neighbouring high country runholders were disputing access along a right of way. One said there was no access on the 4WD road through their property while the other was using it for mustering and for bringing hunting clients in. Commission staff researched the right of way agreement, conditions and disputes procedure and shared details with the police who will use the information if the dispute reoccurs.

Wardle says there is a history of police being pulled into trespass disputes on rural land. They need legal knowledge about public access to resolve these disputes.

For their part, the police see the Walking Access Commission as a useful neutral agency that can take the heat out of public access issues.