Submission to Land Access Reference Group

The NZRCA's submission regarding land access issues relating to kayaking, as sent to the Land Access Reference Group.

To: Ministerial Access Reference group
From: New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association
Date: 28 March 2003
Submission: Public Access to the seashore, lakes and rivers, and over private land.

  1. This submission is in response to the request from the Reference Group for written information addressing public access to waterways, and over private land.

    Background to the New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association

  2. The NZRCA is the national representative organisation of canoe clubs and recreational kayakers throughout New Zealand. The NZRCA is an incorporated society and is affiliated to the NZ Canoe Federation, which is in turn affiliated to the International Canoe Federation. The NZRCA has delegated authority to represent the NZ Canoe Federation on conservation/access issues.
  3. Previously the NZRCA was known as the New Zealand Canoe Association, prior to the creation of the New Zealand Canoe Federation in 1995/1996.
  4. The NZRCA represents both individual members and affiliated member clubs. Currently there are approximately 30 member clubs affiliated to the NZRCA, 12 member "organisations" and a total of approximately 900 individual members. The figure of 900 in no way adequately represents the sum total of kayakers in New Zealand, as there are many who do not belong to clubs, and who have not joined the NZRCA as individuals.
  5. Members of the executive of the NZRCA are volunteers.
  6. The NZRCA is a nationally recognised and respected body that continues to be actively and constructively involved in resource management processes. We are party to several partnership agreements throughout the country with power companies regarding recreation releases on rivers, subject to hydro-electricity projects, and maintain good working relationships with the companies who run such operations.
  7. In the past the NZRCA has presented evidence before Special Tribunals, and the Planning Tribunal (now Environment Court) in relation to Water Conservation Orders for the Shotover and Kawarua rivers, the Buller River and its catchment, the Mohaka River, as well as Council hearing committees in relation to the Genesis' applications to renew consents for the Tongariro Power Development and Mighty River Power's applications to renew its consents for the Waikato River.

    Extent and nature of issues relating to access

  8. Recreational kayakers seek access to a wide range of rivers, both remote and easily accessible. The nature of the sport is such that often the remote rivers, that provide remote, wilderness experiences, are the rivers most highly valued by the kayaking community.
  9. Access to remote rivers is gained by a variety of means - car access on public unsealed roads, car access on private roads, helicopter access, foot access through public or private land.
  10. For highly valued remote rivers, such as the upper Crooked River on the West Coast of the South Island, or the Young River in the Wanaka area, kayakers will carry their kayaking gear through a single track in the forest for up to 4 hours, to access the "put in".
  11. There are also "unremote" rivers, such as the Wairoa, that while being close to main roads and major populations, still involve access over private property to get to the "put in" or "take out".
  12. Therefore the key issue to kayakers is ongoing access across private land, or public roads that have lockable gates controlled by an adjacent landowner.
  13. In the cases of the Crooked River, and Turnbull River for example, the gates over the public or private road that provides access closer to the river are locked. At the Crooked, the landowner is apparently happy to provide the key on request. At the Turnbull, there are many second hand stories as to why it is difficult for kayakers to get the key to this gate. Therefore access to the Turnbull is not guaranteed.
  14. In some cases, such as the Wairoa, a token charge is imposed by the landowner for access over private land, which in general is accepted by kayakers.
  15. There are many rivers that can only be accessed by helicopter, because there is no practicable foot or vehicle access. Many of these rivers are on the West Coast of the South Island, such as the Karamea, Arahura, Whitcomb and Hokitika. However, even some of these very remote areas cannot be accessed for kayaking, because of Wilderness Area classifications that prohibit the presence of helicopters. Eg. Upper Landsborough.
  16. The examples listed above are just that - examples. There are many rivers in New Zealand that are highly valued by kayakers, that can only be accessed over private land, or through locked gates across public or private roads. The ease of access in each case varies, depending on variables such as landowner attitude, practical accessibility of the landowner to provide a key, behaviour of those who have accessed the river in the past, concerns about liability for safety of any structures etc.
  17. In other cases, it is not clear whether or not there is a Queens Chain or marginal strip, or even if the bed of the river is owned by the Crown. This therefore raises legal issues as to whether or not kayakers are technically trespassing, by kayaking a river such as the Hautapu, the bed of which is apparently privately owned. In the case of marginal strips, if the riverbank is privately owned, theoretically if a kayaking group got into difficulty, had an injured member etc, and needed to get onto the river bank for safety reasons, they are again technically trespassing.

    Causes of the issues

  18. Obviously landowners are entitled to keep their stock and property secure by having locked gates from time to time, although in the case of public roads, we are unsure whether or not this is lawful.
  19. Instances of individuals abusing their access privileges does set a precedent, that means landowners may be less likely to be cooperative for the next kayaker that requests access.
  20. In terms of the ownership of marginal strips and riverbeds, this is an issue that we would like clarification of.

    Potential solutions

  21. We would like the opportunity for ongoing participation and dialogue with the Reference Group and other stakeholders on these issues. The recommendations and outcomes that arise out of this process are potentially very important to the kayaking community. We would therefore be greatly appreciative of the opportunity to peruse other submissions received, and to respond/have ongoing dialogue on the issues that are raised.
  22. We have not formulated a view on the best solutions to address these issues. Some ideas that have been raised as simply suggestions for further discussion are:
    1. Land swaps
    2. Education programmes
    3. Centralisation of access information
    4. Reform of marginal strip/queens chain legislation

    Likely environmental impact

  23. Kayaking is a non-intrusive, non-extractive sport. The most potential for environmental impact is if vehicles are used to access a river. Otherwise access is primarily by foot.


  24. We look forward to the opportunity to continue to participate in the discussion of these important issues.

Maree Baker/Mike Savory
Conservation/Access Officers
New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association
Address withheld