The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has today published the findings and recommendations from a review of the Walking Access Act 2008.
The review revealed strong public support for the Act. The changes proposed by the review aim to help ensure it is fit for the future, and continues to provide a wide range of types of public access to the outdoors.
Under the Act, a review was required after 10 years. MPI led the review, with guidance from an independent panel of Dr Hugh Logan (chair), Sandra Faulkner, and Leith Comer QSO.
"The purpose of the Act is to provide free, certain, enduring and practical access to the outdoors for all sorts of activities," says Charlotte Denny, director of land, water and climate policy at MPI.
"These include walking, bike riding, walking dogs, and hunting or 4-wheel driving. The Act also established the New Zealand Walking Access Commission."
"Overall the review found resounding support for the ongoing need for the Act and that the New Zealand Walking Access Commission is performing an important and valued role," says Charlotte Denny.
Since 2012/2013, the commission has negotiated a total of 300 access opportunities.
"The Act and commission have been instrumental in creating new walkways like the Dry Acheron Track in Canterbury and the Westmere Walkway near Whanganui, and in progressing tracks for walking and mountain biking on Coronet Peak and Glencoe Stations near Wanaka," says Charlotte Denny.
The review was informed by public engagement between 17 May 2019 and 2 July 2019, including public meetings and hui. MPI also received and analysed 638 written submissions.
The review has made 30 recommendations and proposed 6 technical legislative changes.
These recommendations include changing the name of the Act and the commission to reflect its work leading and supporting public access to the outdoors generally, rather than solely walking access. They also include acknowledging the Māori-Crown relationship under the Treaty of Waitangi through a partnership approach between the commission and Māori.
"The review's recommendations will shape the next stage of our work, which is a formal policy process to test the findings from the review," says Charlotte Denny.
"This will include consultation with the public, before the Government decides on any changes to the Act and the commission's work."
"We thank everyone who took the time to provide their input during our public feedback period earlier this year, and appreciate the guidance provided by the panel."
"We know accessing the outdoors improves our health, supports our cultural connection with the land, and provides an opportunity to share experiences with our friends and family. The public's interest in the review certainly shows the importance they place on access to the outdoors."
In 2020 more information about the timing of the next stage will also be provided.