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Unformed Legal Roads

People are often unsure about the legal status of unformed legal roads, colloquially known as paper roads.

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Types of legal public access

There are many different types of legal public access. This page details some of the main ones you are likely to encounter.

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Lake Hawea

Overseas Investment Act

One of the Commission’s interesting jobs is to look at applications by overseas investors to buy sensitive land.

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Lake Tekapo

Walking on Crown-owned land

Conservation land administered by DOC is usually open to walking access but there are some exceptions to this.

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Mountain bike MTB Christchurch

Cyclists and mountain bikers

Despite our name the Walking Access Commission Ara Hīkoi Aotearoa also helps negotiate public access to trails for cyclists and especially mountain bikers.

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Paekakariki Escarpment Track


New Zealand offers an abundance of walking tracks providing opportunities for access to the great outdoors. These tracks fall into many categories.

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Resolving disputes over access

The New Zealand Walking Access Commission can help facilitate resolutions when there is a dispute between two or more parties over access to the outdoors.

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The Country and Outdoor Recreation Calendar

A downloadable calendar showing common farming, fishing and hunting seasons. The calendar has been jointly created by the Commission, Fish & Game and Federated Farmers.

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Rainforest South Island

Walking over private land to get to public land

There is no general right of public access across private land. If there is any doubt about access you should seek permission first.

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Can a landholder stop me using an unformed legal road?

No. Landholders do not have the right to refuse access over adjoining public land. This includes unformed legal roads.

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Forms of legal access across private land

There is no general right of public access across private land. Owners of private land have the right of exclusive occupation and enjoyment of that land.

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Photo by Yuki Dog on Unsplash


The right to walk with a dog, including hunting dogs, depends on the existing rights that run with access.

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Motor vehicle on walking tracks

Generally, you cannot use motor vehicles on tracks. Even where vehicles are legally allowed, such as on unformed legal roads, it is polite to inform the landholder.

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Types of walkways

Gazetted walkways are those walking tracks that have been established under the Walking Access Act 2008 and the New Zealand Walkways Act 1990.

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Peace Park Lake Wakatipu dog walk

Bikes, dogs and horses on walkways

Unless there has been special agreement with the landowner or public land administrator bikes, dogs or horses may not be taken on a walkway.

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One Tree Hill pathway

Greenways, property developers and the use of incentives

Holly Stevens’ research highlights incentives to encourage Auckland’s property developers to allow public access through their land for greenway development.

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Ngaumatau Road

What a wellbeing framework means for access to the outdoors

Treasury’s Living Standards Framework means a new way of talking about the value of tracks and trails. Tracks contribute to wellbeing in a multitude of ways.

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Red billed gull Aramoana Mole

Landholders can refuse the right to walk over land

Landholders may refuse access to their land, even if such access may have been traditional and the request seems to be reasonable.

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Outdoor Access Map

Downloadable GPX files make accessing hidden spots easier

People accessing the outdoors can walk along public access that borders or passes through private land. And they can be more confident that they are in the right place.

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Pukekohe 5 Summits shared pathway

Shared pathways

The commission advocates for shared pathways for cyclists, walkers, horse riders and other active transport users as a part of our support for outdoor recreation.

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pine forest


There are several reasons for foresters to understand public access instruments. These include knowing legal responsibilities and maintaining good community relationships

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