Message from Hon Damien O’Connor

I am pleased to present this report on the findings of the review of the Walking Access Act 2008 (the Act).

Being able to access the outdoors is an important part of the well-being of all New Zealanders. We know there are wide-ranging benefits from using tracks and trails on the edges of our cities and in our iconic rural landscapes.

Accessing these environments improves our health, supports our cultural connection with the land, and provides an opportunity to share experiences with our friends and family and build memories.

Our international and domestic visitors alike seek out New Zealand’s natural beauty, which creates economic and regional development opportunities for communities across the country, which in turn strengthens our economy.

We also know that the benefits of the outdoors are not always shared equally. The review of the Act found that certain groups experience barriers to access. We need to work to overcome as many of these barriers as we can and make sure there is greater equity of access.

When the Reviewing the Walking Access Act 2008: Public feedback paper was published in May this year, I urged you to provide feedback on strengthening both the Act and the way it works. Thank you to everyone who took the time to provide feedback and attend public meetings and hui. Your views have been considered in the preparation of this report. It is heartening to see that during the formal engagement period there were 517 completed responses received through the online feedback form and 121 submissions received by post or email. This is a clear demonstration of the importance people place on public access to the outdoors and on the role of the Act in supporting this.

This report contains thirty recommendations and six technical changes, aimed at informing the subsequent formal policy process, which will include consultation on proposals for change. After this is completed the Government will then decide on any changes to be made to the Act and to the work of the New Zealand Walking Access Commission (the Commission).

Thank you to the Walking Access Act 2008 Review Panel of Dr Hugh Logan (Chair), Leith Comer QSO, and Sandra Faulkner, who have ably guided Ministry for Primary Industries’ officials throughout this review. You have each brought valuable skills and experience to this work.

Thank you also to the Commission’s staff and board for participating fully and positively in the review of the Act. I know your assistance in providing information and explaining technical and operational aspects of public access in New Zealand has been invaluable to the review.

I look forward to seeing the Act and the Commission continue to support public access in our beautiful country.

Hon Damien O’Connor

Minister of Agriculture

Minister for Rural Communities