I want to thank everyone who took time to give feedback on the review of our governing legislation the Walking Access Act 2008 (the Act).
It has been a powerful opportunity, on our tenth birthday, for people with a keen interest in outdoor access to review the role of the Act and the Walking Access Commission (the Commission).
During the review, many people and organisations shared their thoughts about the Act and the Commission. The informal feedback we received from them is that the Commission plays an important role in creating goodwill and understanding between people who own or manage land and people who access the outdoors.
There are things we all can improve on. The review will help highlight many of them. But I believe during the last ten years the Act and the Commission have helped turn controversial and fraught issue of public access into one where most people now act with respect and goodwill towards each other.
This last year has been one where the Commission has continued to expand its scope and take on big, new, regional projects. For instance, the work we have done in the Franklin-North Waikato region offers not just a vision of a better, well-connected future for the residents in that region, it also offers a new vision for the Commission and our future.
We will continue to help resolve individual disputes and advocate for individual new public access ways. But, as we have done in Taranaki, Franklin-North Waikato and Pūhoi to Pākiri we can also help entire communities to build a network of paths that connect them to their neighbours, their schools, their amenities and their recreation.
This year the Commission has planned to engage more comprehensively with iwi and hāpū. We believe the Commission can help address the public access issues Māori communities face – including better access to wāhi tapu, better public understanding of Māori land and supporting the promotion of Māori culture and heritage through public access.
Also this year the terms of two of our Board members, Peter Brown and Robin McNeill, expired. I want to thank Peter and Robin for their considerable contributions to public outdoor access in New Zealand.
Peter has been on the Commission’s board since it was created in 2009. His immense knowledge, and the mana he brings with him, have been a huge benefit to the Commission over the past ten years. His work to have the Commission appoint a kaumātua is a credit to his belief in the importance of the Crown working alongside Māori in partnership.
During his years with us, Robin shared his vast experience in New Zealand’s outdoors and important networks with recreationalists across the country, as well as his technical knowledge about geospatial mapping. This expertise was invaluable.
As we await the final outcome of the Act Review, we do not know what the future holds for the Walking Access Act and the Commission. But we do know that there are exciting opportunities for supporters of public access to the outdoors. We are looking forward to embracing those opportunities.
John Forbes, Board Chair
Lisa Chase, Board Member