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Walking on Private Property: Walking Rights and Responsibilities

BackpackerGuide.NZ

Where you can and cannot walk in New Zealand.

New Zealand is best enjoyed in the great outdoors, there’s no doubt about that. We have 13 National Parks and abundance of reserves and forest parks especially for people to hike in and help the conservation effort in those areas. However, there are certainly some interesting landscapes on private property that might be enticing but access is closed to the public. You’ll mostly find this on farmland and Maori land.

To help you understand your walking access rights and responsibilities when in New Zealand, we’ve put together this quick guide. You’ll even find the answer to those little things like what are the rules when walking a dog in New Zealand and how to obtain permission to walk on someone’s land. You might find yourself in these situations when on a working holiday, if you’re working or living on a farm or walking your hosts’ dogs, for example.

You also have a responsibility to look after the environment too, so be sure to read up on how to Be Green When Backpacking in New Zealand.

How to check if you are allowed to walk in a certain area

You see an intriguing-looking place and want to know if you can walk and hike there. You can check if it is possible by using these resources:

Working Holiday New Zealand

BackpackerGuide.NZ

Which areas are likely to have public access?

There are a lot of rivers, lakes, beaches and mountains in New Zealand. While its tempting to explore them all, not all of them have public access to, along or around them. However, the list below shows the types of places that are generally open to the public. So public areas include:

  • most beaches
  • walkways under the Walking Access Act (walks managed by DoC and other walkways that are usually signposted)
  • legal roads
  • marginal strips along waterways
  • private land with permission
  • national parks, reserves and other conservation areas.

To make things easier, just check out all the hikes we have listed in our Hiking category. All the trails listed have public access.

BackpackerGuide.NZ

Walking on private property and Maori land

Fenced off land usually indicates that it is private property. Seek walking permission from the land manager before venturing on their land. Gaining permission to Maori land is not as straightforward as you will need to be invited onto their land to not cause offense.

If you have been granted access or there is signage granting access to the public, then you can walk on private property. However, you should respect people’s property by:

  • Leaving gates as you find them whether they are open or closed
  • Using gates or stiles to pass a fence. If there are none, go through fence wires or climb over the posts. Don’t climb over wires
  • Not blocking gateways, tracks or entrances
  • Walking in single file around farm animals
  • Not feeding farm animals
  • Walking around crops (not through them)
  • Reporting any damage, farm animals in difficulty or anything suspicious to the land manager.

BackpackerGuide.NZ

Dog walking responsibilities

Ok, we know it’s highly unlikely you are bringing your dog with you on your gap year to New Zealand, especially because it is not practical and includes a very lengthy and complicated process which you can read more about in Bringing Pets into New Zealand. However, if you are housesitting or WWOOFing, it is likely that you will have to walk a dog. (WWOOFing is not a weird dog-walking pun, but a way to work for accommodation. Read more about it in Everything You Need to Know About WWOOFing in New Zealand). So here are a few things to consider when looking for a place to walk the dog.

  • Ask your WWOOFing or housesitting hosts where you are allowed to walk the dog.
  • Don’t let the dog frighten other people.
  • Keep the dog on a short lead or under close control when there are farm animals around.
  • Do not let the dog disturb birds or other wildlife (unless it is game that you are permitted to hunt. In that case you need to be with someone with a firearms licence).
  • Take some doggy poo bags out with you! (Yes, you need to pick up the dog poo).

Look after the New Zealand environment

As well as respecting private property, of course, it is especially important in New Zealand to take care of the environment. Take a look at these articles to see what is expected when you are enjoying the great outdoors.

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