News from the field - October 2016

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 Margaret Horsburgh (Auckland), and Ange van der Laan (Queenstown Lakes and Southland).

Margaret Horsburgh, Auckland

2016 Margaret HorburghThe past few months have been busy in Auckland. Our largest city has one third of New Zealand's people and keeps growing, with a population now numbering over 1.5 million. Geographically, Auckland encompasses rural and urban areas, stretching from Wellsford in the north to the Bombay Hills in the south.

Access enhancement is a priority, with numerous community and Auckland Council initiatives, including the Auckland Paths project which is helping to make Auckland a vibrant and exciting place to live. Auckland Paths enable people to walk, jog, scooter or cycle away from busy roads, without having to share road space with buses, trucks or cars.

So what have I been doing? Across Auckland, community groups and local boards are working on initiatives to enhance access, and Auckland Council too is piloting several projects.

I have been able to make presentations to local boards and I've also started working with some very active community groups, which has been useful as these groups need to understand issues relating to unformed legal roads, access easements, trail development project management and subsequent trail management plans.

I attended the international 2WalkandCycle Conference in July and this highlighted several things, notably the importance of having good urban design combined with in-depth research and analysis, the need for strong writing business cases, and the value of testing ideas with focus groups when planning for new access. Continuous improvement is critical as trails can and should be regularly enhanced.

Participants at the conference agreed that priority should be given to areas including completing trail networks, safety over efficiency, and access for children and disabled people. The '8 80 rule' if you get it right for 8 year olds and 80 year olds it will be right for everyone became a conference slogan.

Several presentations highlighted the relationship between good health and walking and cycling, and there were interesting discussions on whether shared cycling and walking paths really do work. The jury is still out on this but some countries consider that there are better options than shared paths.

In Auckland, we at the Commission are looking forward to working with others to extend access opportunities and playing an active part in these initiatives.

Ange van der Laan, Queenstown Lakes and Southland

PaddedImage100160FFFFFF 2015 Ange van der Laan3As the rest of the country is nailed by late winter weather, here in the deep south, lambs are being born into brilliant sunshine and warm temperatures, daffodils are out and the area is awash with trees in blossom.

The three million visitors the Queenstown lakes area attracts each year come here for good reason but the shoulder seasons are no longer the quiet times. With that astonishing growth comes issues just one that we're experiencing here is that of people in the backcountry wandering off routes. Sometimes this has devastating consequences and other times it's just downright irritating for landowners, especially where livestock are involved.

In the old days of the odd wanderer and less focus on health and safety requirements, landowners were happy to let people roam their properties with nary a thought. But with more people enjoying the outdoors and with the importance placed on health and safety, we at the New Zealand Walking Access Commission are often called upon to broker conversations on how access can be retained while recognising landowner responsibilities.

The Commission has produced an excellent FAQ for landowners on the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 in conjunction with Federated Farmers New Zealand, Rural Women New Zealand, Fish & Game New Zealand, Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, New Zealand Recreation Association and New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association.

In a nutshell, the new Act relies on people's common sense so don't let it stop you from exploring our great outdoors and for landowners, don't let it stop you from continuing to allow folk to enjoy our outstanding country. Signs are a simple and effective way of making sure walkers and others keep to the right route so if you can see that tracks over your property would benefit from some signage enhancement, please get in touch.

But back to the current pressures resulting from an explosion of tourist numbers in the deep south. To address this, a trust has been established to link several cycle trails to the Otago Central Rail Trail opening up a massive regional cycle network. Suddenly, multi-day trips for families, gentle cyclists, cycling enthusiasts and anyone else wanting an active holiday are on the cards. The opportunities are endless and will be a massive boost to the Central Otago region.

In other news, the spotlight in the Queenstown Lakes and Southland areas is on some very high profile property sales which are subject to the Overseas Investment Act. Under this legislation, overseas owners are required to meet certain criteria which must demonstrate benefits to New Zealanders.

Since public access is a huge benefit, the Commission is usually called upon to make recommendations over such properties. It can be very difficult to balance the wants of a potential new overseas landowner and those of the public, and we work to ensure that, where possible, our recommendations are supported by the new landowners.

Sometimes this is not possible and landowners may not be happy with the outcome - and sometimes, the access outcome which the Commission recommends does not make it over the line. Either way, this is a large part of our work these days and makes for fun and interesting times collaborating with other agencies.

Image credit: Otago Central Rail Trail Charitable Trust

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