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Barrie Smith: The truth about paper roads

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  • #20544
    • Town/City: Tauranga
    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV, BMW R100GS
    • Rank: Round the World Adventure Globetrotter

    This article was first published on stuff.co.nz. I’ve only quoted part of the article below.

    In the Taranaki Daily News on November 17 2017 there was an interesting article about a dispute between a Blenheim land owner and a local fisherman who wanted to drive on a paper road through this land to his favourite fishing spot but the road was blocked by large humps of spoil.

    This story has inspired me to write a few facts about paper roads, which cover 56,000 kilometres New Zealand wide.

    I don’t know the total length in Taranaki but it would be a few thousand kilometres. I can quote the Stratford District Council (SDC) region as having 700kms of unformed paper roads, 596kms of formed and maintained roads, 153 bridges and three tunnels. There is also a term used called ‘pegged’ which is where a formed road ends and maintenance ceases. In a number of cases the road may continue as a paper road.

    A good example of a paper road that draws a lot of attention is the Whangamomona Rd, which runs from the historic Whangamomona pub to the Bridge to Somewhere, near where you enter the Aotuhia Station and some 19kms in length.

    In the early 1980s the government of the day finally decided to redevelop Aotuhia Station after having been walked off following the depression of the 1930s or soon after and of course the isolation had taken its toll.

    Lands and Survey were given the task to begin and rolling the scrub commenced. Land and Survey also had property adjacent to Whangamomona township so it approached the Stratford County Council to close the Whangamomona Rd so it had exclusive use as a stock track to move stock as the land was being developed. However fortunately the council declined the application and as we know today it would be one of the most used for recreational walking, cycling or 4WD in Taranaki.

    More recently a group formed, raised funds and got the road somewhat upgraded which included some bridges but the history of the Whangamomona Rd, and in fact Aotuhia region, is really fascinating so I intend writing another column about it in the near future.

    So let’s look at the legal status of a ‘paper road’ and I will quote from the New Zealand Walking Access Commission document where it says: “Unformed legal roads are no different in law from formed roads. That is, the public has the right to use them on foot, horseback, or in vehicles without hindrance from the adjoining land holder or anyone else. However users of these roads should still be considerate of others including the adjoining land owner and their livestock and property.”

    I’m sure all tourist operators, tramping clubs and recreational users are well aware of these conditions including re-shutting gates and abide by them by notifying land owners as a courtesy.

    You can read the full article at: https://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/99948472/Barrie-Smith-The-truth-about-paper-roads

    • Rank: 250cc Rider

    thanks for posting this, an interesting bit of history.

    Being from the UK, I’m unfamiliar with the term “paper-road” and gravel roads rarely exist. In England & Wales, hundreds of miles of unsealed legal roads are available but they are known as “by-ways”, many of which are thousands of years old as they were built by the Romans or Medieval drovers moving cattle / families across the land. Although not as old, it seems the paper roads in NZ are equivalent.

    In England, there is much opposition by walkers, horse riders and cyclists against the use of vehicular access & councils often decide to ban motorised traffic as it means less maintenance costs (usually a local farmer is paid to maintain them).

    Consequently, there is much secrecy about the legal by-ways for vehicles & although an OS map may imply access, it may not necessarily be open to vehicles. Therefore, most off-road bikers join the Trail Riders Federation to discover where and when by-ways can be ridden.

    In Scotland almost all the land is private so there are very few legal by-ways or unsealed roads.

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