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February 2022 Issue
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FMC launches paper roads campaign

Jan Finlayson wants the Walking Access Commission to be given powers to enforce public access to paper roads

Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) has re-launched a campaign to raise awareness about access to paper roads.

There are about 56,000km of unformed legal roads, or paper roads, which is land that has been designated as a public road but has never been turned into an actual road. 

The roads have the same legal status as a formed road, meaning the public has unfettered access to them and landowners cannot prevent access. Gates can only be installed across a paper road with the permission of the local territorial authority. They cannot be locked and must have a sign indicating they are on a public road.

Often paper roads were not formally surveyed. They may cross impractical terrain and be indistinguishable from surrounding private land, but now they are becoming important parts of cycle trails and tramping tracks.

FMC president Jan Finlayson told Stuff that she wanted the Walking Access Commission to be able to enforce public access to paper roads, to prevent landowners from fencing them off. However, a spokesperson for the commission said it preferred to negotiate solutions with interested parties, “rather than blanket enforcement”.