Access – it's more than just walking
Despite the name, the New Zealand Walking Access Commission has always been about more than just walking. Chief Executive Eric Pyle discusses the breadth of access that the Commission is involved in supporting.
In presentations I give, I always have to explain that the Walking Access Commission is much broader than just walking. We support cycling, horse-riding and in some cases even vehicle access. We’re involved in all aspects of helping people get to where they want to go in the outdoors.
Recently the Commission appeared in front of the Primary Production Select Committee. One of the first comments Committee members made was that we seemed to be much broader than walking – members of the Committee went so far as to mention a name change was in order to reflect that the Commission is about access, not just walking access.
That was my first appearance before a Select Committee in this role, and it was pleasing to see that the Commission has good cross-party support. There was strong recognition for the work we are doing, and for the emergent trail-building movement in this country. This movement covers urban, rural, front country and back country, with access underpinning the development of trails in all parts.
A few weeks ago, the Commission held its annual Walking Access Awards in Parliament. Some of the recipients were cycle trail groups, again confirming the view that we are more than just walking access.
Over 100 people were present at Parliament’s Grand Hall, with Hon Louise Upston presenting the winners with their awards. It was a great evening where New Zealand’s fabulous outdoors were celebrated together with the champions that work so hard to ensure that the public can have access to our wonderful environment.
A theme that emerged in the acceptance speeches were that our access heroes are motivated by a desire to help people get into New Zealand’s fabulous outdoors by a variety of means – walking, cycling, kayaking and more.
Should we look to select a more appropriate name for the Commission? Ultimately, the name is just a distraction. The work we do, and the work of others that we’re lucky to support, is what’s really important.
When giving presentations, speaking to Select Committee or at functions like the Walking Access Awards I am constantly reminded how truly lucky we are in New Zealand to have such fantastic outdoors opportunities.
We are equally lucky to have wonderful, dedicated people – our access heroes – who focus on creating opportunities for people to access the outdoors, however that may be. That’s access worth celebrating.