View from the top: partnering for the greater good

It's often said that many hands make light work. New Zealand Walking Access Commission chairman John Forbes discusses the benefits of partnership, and the Commission's priorities for the coming year.

Just as track building requires a joint effort, so too does strengthening access culture and enhancing opportunities to access our beautiful outdoors.

Over the past seven years, the New Zealand Walking Access Commission has accomplished a great deal, but like most things in life, more can be achieved working with others.

Last week we partnered with the Mountain Safety Council to launch three new scenarios on our Both Sides of the Fence education website for primary and intermediate school students.

These scenarios, which focus on day walking, overnight camping and hunting, raise awareness of some of the key points in the Outdoor Access Code and Outdoor Safety Code. They were jointly funded and produced, helping us to maximise the value we deliver for every dollar spent, and the Mountain Safety Council to increase the reach of its outdoor safety messaging for minimum cost.

Partnerships of this kind will be a focus over the coming year. We know there is potential to bring more landholder and recreation groups together to facilitate the creation of new access, and to celebrate the positive impact tracks and access routes so often have on communities.

Our regional field advisors will have a role in this, and we will look at establishing a workshop or conference on access, possibly in partnership with other organisations, to encourage a shared discussion. A workshop or conference of this kind would facilitate sharing of learnings and delve into topics ranging from developing new access opportunities and publicising successes to identifying where demand for new tracks is greatest and best practice when maintaining and enhancing existing access.

Working with other government agencies, NGOs and businesses will help us to enhance and extend the reach of our mapping information showing where people can and can't go in the outdoors. By making our Walking Access Mapping System more flexible and our mapping data more readily available to others we will enable others in the geographic information system community to build their own new apps using the mapping system's data. Simultaneously, we will work with other agencies to build on the public access information the mapping system was set up to provide to ensure public access information that isn't currently shown can be accurately captured and displayed.

There are opportunities to further improve our relationships and communication with local government, which has the ultimate responsibility for upholding public rights of access on much of the publicly owned land across our country, including unformed legal roads. We will also continue working with iwi to explore new access opportunities and ways to celebrate the significant Maori aspect of our access heritage too often people look at this heritage through a European lens.

At the same time we will need to continue doing our existing work well. That means resolving access issues on a national and regional level, continuing to make information about public access and publicly accessible areas freely available, and facilitating entirely new access to the outdoors. Our Walking Access Mapping System, Both Sides of the Fence and Follow the Kiwi websites are key services and have an ongoing role.

Achieving all of this will require a concerted effort and some new and innovative thinking. The Commission is a small government agency with limited resources, yet we have a broad mandate and lofty goals of changing attitudes and enhancing the access landscape nationwide.

Fortunately, these goals are shared by myriad others across New Zealand, and I'm confident that, in partnership with others, our Board, staff and regional field advisors have the passion, dedication and drive to improve access for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

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