Thwarted access to the hills

5 02 2012

In other countries there is a right to roam. On my Scottish OE I enjoyed climbing any hill that took my fancy. In Sweden the allemansrätten ensures you can pretty much walk anywhere you’d like. In New Zealand outside the conservation estate we get a few scraps of land to walk over. When the land was stolen or bought from the Maoris and it was settled and divvied up there wasn’t much thought for the future recreational needs of all New Zealanders. So there is not much right to roam.

I love the fact that all the topo maps are now available for free from LINZ (even if they are the hugest tiff files that slows my computer down to a snail’s pace) and I really like the Walking Access Mapping System that shows all the cadastral boundaries for all NZ and where you can legally walk. Unfortunately it doesn’t show lots and lots of paper roads criss-crossing the countryside. Take the Horowhenua. There’s only a few surprises. The Waitarere-Hokio Road does indeed join up with Moutere Road as a paper road. The Moutoa Floodway and the stopbanks around Opiki are on public land, as is the historic bridge (but there’s no sign to say so near the engineers monument, so everyone thinks they’re trespassing to go down to the old bridge, but they’re not). And there is a paper road through the Tokomaru gorge.

There’s also some paper roads leading off Wallace Loop Road, Potts Road and Heights Road, but they don’t seem to link up with anywhere you could walk, except tracks that cross private land. This is a great shame, as it would open up quite a lot of nice hikes linking through to the Kohitere Forest (which is private, but open for trampers and mountain bikers). It’s this lack of connectivity of the public rights of access which is stopping developing recreational resources for the people of the Horowhenua, and hence also stopping a few visitors from visiting if there isn’t as much for them to do.

Here’s a snapshot from WAMS showing the area I’m talking about. The pink is a paper road, and the orange and white banded road at the bottom is in the Kohitere Forest. Between them are tracks along the ridge line of the first range of hills you can see looking east standing in Levin.

I went for a walk doing the loop in the forest, beginning and ending at the You Are Here, and walking the northern part of a loop on the brown track below to the Arapaepae Lookout and walk the Arapaepae Track back. (It is part of Te Araroa, but it is a bit unique as it as branch off the main part of the Te Araroa Trail, to link through walkers into Levin.) I also thought I’d explore the trails northwards until I came to a big fence or a dumb No Trespassing sign.

I’m much of the same opinion as the late Christopher Hitchens that “faith” is an overrated virtue, if it is a virtue at all, and trespass is a most underrated virtue. (That’s me, that last bit, not Mr. Hitchens) Most often it is just an excuse for a landowner to be a dick and to stop people from walking across their land, which commonly is a low impact kind of thing anyway.

The Kohitere Forest is planted pines with a few covenanted blocks of native forest. It’s a pleasant place for a walk or mountain bike ride.

And the views of the Ohau Valley and onto the Tararuas can be quite pleasant:

The track leading north out of the forest on the ridge line (I dunno if this bit is private or not. There were no signs or gates as such.) The views were fantastic. From Kapiti Island over the Horowhenua and past the Manawatu. The track was a bit overgrown, but would be safe mountain biking (if you’re allowed on it). Here’s the track of unknown legal status:

 

Then there is a locked gate with a sign saying no trespassing, and it does go past some houses. So I turned around and went back the way I came. It is really unfortunate that there isn’t a stile and a right to keep on walking. It is really close to the paper road down to Wallace Loop Road, and really what harm would it be to let people walk over these tracks? The track continues, but is verboten:

The no trespassing sign was a bit rude, with the trespassers prosecuted rubbish that they often have, when really all they could do to a trespasser is to ask them to move on, and if they complain to the police all the police can do is put a trespass notice on you, and then it would be an offence to go back onto the private bit of land in the next two years. But at least it wasn’t as rude and mean spirited as this stupid one near the start of my walk. I’m glad someone has tried to rip it from the tree.

The views from the ridgeline were all pretty nice, but here is the view from the Arapaepae Lookout:

Nice place for a hike. Pity about the lack of legal access.

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