The 'right to roam': lessons for New Zealand from Sweden's allemansrätt

Campion, R.; Stephenson, J.
March 2010
Australasian Journal of Environmental Management;Mar2010, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p18
Academic Journal
In early 2007, the New Zealand Government completed a review of rights of public access for outdoor recreation. Unlike recent access reforms in the United Kingdom, the New Zealand review recommended no increase in the public's right to access private property, instead reinforcing the status quo but with greater use of legal but unformed 'paper roads' that exist in some locations. Limitations of relying solely on public reserves and paper roads for recreational access to rural land include the high cost of acquiring and managing public lands, their remoteness from main population centres, and the potentially inappropriate location of paper roads. An alternative to relying solely on public land for recreation is to provide a restricted form of a 'right to roam' as in Scandanavian countries. Sweden's allemansrätt is a highly developed system of public access to private property that is efficient, practical and flexible, in a country that shares many characteristics with New Zealand. The apparent lack of progress in resolving New Zealand's public access issues can arguably be attributed to an inability or unwillingness to conceive of land ownership in any other than 'absolute' terms. When properly managed, as it is in Sweden, the 'right to roam' can bring an optimal outcome for landowners, the public and the state. Applied to New Zealand, the concept could build on the existing Environmental Care Code, and be used as an alternative tool in situations such as high country tenure reviews or as an alternative to reserve categories such as esplanade strips or access strips alongside waterbodies and the coast under the Resource Management Act 1991. More extensive consideration of international access systems may offer alternative concepts to inform and enrich the public access debate in New Zealand.


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