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Getting access to paper roads and private land

New Zealand has an abundance of paper roads and great tracks that cross private farmland, bush and forest land, however a lot of land owners won’t allow access due to a lack of understanding around their obligations and risk of being prosecuted if you have an accident or injury while on their property.

The NZ Government, via their Worksafe New Zealand and Safer Farms departments provide a guide for farmers and land owners about what their responsibilities are for visitors on their land.
The information can be read online or downloaded from the Worksafe website: http://www.worksafe.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/all-guidance-items/farmers-managing-health-and-safety-a-guide-for-farmers. The most relevant section is Section 5.2: Recreational visitors to farms, private or public land. – last updated 26 August 2016.

We’ve referenced this information below, for the full information see the Safer Farms website.

05 / Farm visitors

The person in control of the workplace (usually the farmer or landowner) must take all practicable steps to make sure people working in and visiting the workplace are safe from workplace hazards.

5.2 Recreational visitors to farms, private or public land

The Act mainly applies to people at work. However, in some cases, section 16 of the Act places some responsibility on people in control of the workplace to take all practicable steps to make sure others in the workplace are not harmed.


Under the Act, people visiting the farm for a workplace-connected reason are covered.

Simply, a farmer has a duty under the Act to warn authorised visitors of any work-related, out-of-the-ordinary hazards that may cause them serious harm.

A farmer is not required to warn visitors about hazards from normal every-day farming activities.

This includes natural hazards on the farm, such as bluffs, landslides, rivers, swamps or wasp nests, that would ordinarily be expected.

Unauthorised visitors

A farmer is not liable if anyone comes on to their land without permission and suffers harm, whether from a work-related hazard or for any other reason.

Authorised visitors

An authorised visitor is anyone who visits a farm with the farmer’s permission and includes people who come for leisure or recreation. This includes people who are legally allowed to be on the property, but only if they have told the farmer they are coming. Such people include employees of TransPower, Department of Conservation and local authorities.

A farmer is not responsible if an authorised visitor is injured, if the farmer warned the visitor about any hazards caused by work on the farm, which the farmer knew could harm that person and a visitor wouldn’t normally expect to face. For example, hazards from tree felling, blasting, earthmoving machinery or pest control operations.

A farmer only has to tell visitors verbally about the hazard, at the time they give permission to go on the land. If a group of people visit, it’s enough to give the warning to a representative of that group.

Paying customers

If people pay to use a farmer’s land, or are there to inspect goods for sale, the people become customers. Farmers must take all practicable steps to keep customers safe from any hazard on the farm. Customers can include: people paying to use the farmer’s land for camping, horse trekking or fruit picking; or where a tour operator pays for tourists to visit a scenic site on the farmer’s land.

Other people

A farmer also has a full duty to other people near where work is being done. But the farmer is only responsible for managing hazards within their control.

Visitor responsibilities

Visitors should take care of themselves by not:

  • interfering with plant or equipment, including electrical installations or fences
  • entering unauthorised areas or farm buildings
  • disturbing or unnecessarily approaching farm animals or work activities
  • letting children wander unsupervised
  • ignoring instructions or warnings
  • leaving gates open or damaging fences.

Warnings and information for visitors

The farmer or landowner might need information, instructions or warning signs to alert visitors to known hazards.

Visitors should make sure they take notice of any warnings and stop if in doubt, until they talk to the farmer or landowner for advice. Visitors should not go into unauthorised areas.

If the visitor can’t contact the owner or occupier, they shouldn’t go ahead. If obvious hazards exist, the visitor must take suitable precautions.

farm visitors

Further information on Unformed Legal Roads (Paper roads) can be found at http://www.walkingaccess.govt.nz, including a summary of the definition and legal status of Unformed Legal Roads.

Home Forums TRACKS & GPS Getting access to private farmland

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  • #7663
    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    New Zealand has an abundance of paper roads and great tracks that cross private farmland, bush and forest land, however a lot of land owners won’t allow access due to a lack of understanding around their obligations and risk of being prosecuted if you have an accident or injury while on their property.

    The NZ Government, via their Worksafe New Zealand department provides a guide for farmers and land owners about what their responsibilities are for visitors on their land. This guide can be downloaded from the WorkSafe NZ site
    [See the full post at: Getting access to private farmland]

    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    From http://www.walkingaccess.govt.nz/latest-news/show/new-trail-information-available-online/264/

    New trail information available online

    People looking for opportunities to access the outdoors can now view a selection of new biking and walking trail information on the New Zealand Walking Access Commission’s Walking Access Mapping System.

    The free mapping system, online at wams.org.nz, shows publicly accessible land across New Zealand and provides legal certainty for people looking to access the outdoors.

    A selection of new track data provided by central and local government has been uploaded to the system and many of the trails are available for mountain bikers to enjoy.

    New Zealand Walking Access Commission Chief Executive Mark Neeson said the new dataset had been generated as a result of collaboration between the Local Government Geospatial Alliance, Land Information New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and the Commission.

    “This is a first step and we hope to make the track information more comprehensive and even easier to use in coming months,” Mr Neeson said.

    “Over time, the new track data will provide an easily accessible resource that people can use to find tracks and trails in their areas, with useful information including track grade and conditions of use.”

    The new data being added to the system will complement existing public access information including the locations of many walking, cycling and horse riding tracks, fishing access points, campsites and other useful points of interest. Mapping information can be viewed against topographical maps, aerial photographs or a basic map showing only the outline of the land.

    Other features of the Walking Access Mapping System include trip planning and zooming tools, and functions that allow users to plot points and lines, and measure distances. Users can also save maps and print them, and lodge enquiries about access rights and responsibilities using a built-in enquiry function.

    The new data integrated into the Walking Access Mapping System is also available as a download from Land Information New Zealand, for website and app developers.

    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    I’ve just updated the information on this page as the Worksafe website has been updated, there doesn’t seem to be any real changes however.

    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    @hadge-haine, this is the info I was talking about.

    Gordon James
    • Bike: BMW F800 GS; KTM 525 EXC
    • Rank: 400cc Rider
    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    @Gordon James said:
    Dispute over public access through forest on Crown-owned land

    Good on Richard Murcott, I don’t know if he is a member here or not.

    It’s a tough one. As at least one of the roads mentioned is a paper road we should have access to that road at least, however that access is often abused by other parties like trail bike riders and dumpers.

    Access to 4 wheeled vehicles was recently blocked for Leslie Road – Cecil Road in the central Waikato due to dumpers totally trashing the place. There’s some pics of the mess they left in the replies on that page.

    Opitonui Road – Wade Road in the Coromandel passes through private forestry but has a public easement so it’s supposed to be open for public access every Sunday, but I’ve tried 3 times to go through it and it’s never been open.

    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    The Fernglen Rd access issue has been going a while. There is a linked article from 2015, the latest article is 2018. I tried to get access with a group a while ago & got turned back. Unfortunately it is one of the areas where continued pressure is needed, otherwise ‘the road will revert to its natural state’ & access will disappear.

    Further up on the Napier/Taupo Rd, the Waipunga Rd is an example of where pressure over a public easement has been successful in removing gates, but the forestry co is now not maintaining the access ways well, I’m guessing in an attempt to discourage or limit access.

    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    WorkSafe has confirmed that people carrying out outdoor recreation are responsible for their own risk rather than landowners or businesses.

    Recreation Aotearoa and the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC) said they were delighted at the clarification over recreational access to private and public land.

    The issue that sparked the clubs’ concern was when Auckland Grammar closed public access to a climbing wall in 2017 after a lawyer raised fears about liability.

    Read the full article on Stuff.co.nz

    “Worksafe has made it clear that landowners or the principals in charge of a property don’t have to manage the risks,”John Palmer, the president of NZAC said.

    Palmer hoped Worksafe’s clarification would dispel myths affecting thousands of Kiwis seeking access to forestry, farm and land owned by corporates.

    Climbers had been practicing on the Auckland Grammar wall for more than 80 years but the Alpine Club was told that changes to the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) sparked concerns about liability.

    Palmer said energy companies had also used perceived risk to restrict access to places like the Waikato River, and so had forestry companies.

    “Farmers have often used it but they have their own regime which means their workplace moves around with them to the areas where they are working and not the areas they’re not working, so liability for risk shouldn’t be a reason. The most common concern on farms currently is Mycoplasma bovis.

    “The issue of most concern to me is conservation land. You see it when the Department of Conservation puts up signs in hazardous places such as near a cliff which is clearly a natural hazard.

    “We’ve had some evidence that DOC and many councils are confused about managing recreational risks – for example on bike trails where a certain amount of risk is part of the attraction,” Palmer said.

    Recreation Aotearoa advocacy manager, Sam Newton, said his group had been working for more than a year with WorkSafe on producing the new guidance.
    “Access to our bush, mountains, lakes and streams is part of what it means to be a New Zealander,” Newton said.

    “However, since the passage of the Health & Safety at Work Act, this has been threatened by a myriad of confusing legalese,” he said.

    WorkSafe has placed its guidance on its website confirming the Act only applies to recreational access when the land is affected by work activities or is part of a workplace.

    It means the landowner or principal in charge is only responsible for risks arising from the work, and is not responsible for the risks associated with the recreational activities.

    They can usually meet their duties by using signs, emails, or verbal warnings to let people know about work hazards.

    The only exception is when the landowner or principal’s business also provides the recreational activity. In this case, they’re also responsible for managing risks associated with that activity.

    However visitors also had responsibilities regardless of legal right of access to follow reasonable health and safety instructions, and other reasonable requests such as shutting farm gates and not frightening stock during lambing.

    The Act doesn’t cover injuries sustained by someone who has accessed land for recreation and hurts themselves as a result of the recreational activity, WorkSafe said.

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