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How to wander without losing your way
19 February 2016

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost”. That may well be true, but the wanderer who knows their way is more likely to be someone with a map, or who’s done their research beforehand.  Having an adventure doesn’t have to be complete improvisation. You can know where you’re going, and still explore. You can carry a map and still get a kick out of what you see and find along the way.

This is the idea behind the New Zealand Walking Access Commission’s Walking Access Mapping System (WAMS). Set up four years ago, it became the first nationwide tool to give New Zealanders all the information they need about publicly accessible land around the country. WAMS includes topographic maps and aerial photography, and identifies public access to the outdoors, including formed and unformed legal roads, marginal strips, conservation land, local government reserves, Crown land and other areas.

Other mapping information displayed on WAMS includes tramping tracks, fishing access points, cycle ways, mountain bike tracks, and Department of Conservation huts and campsites.   Unformed legal roads are also marked on the map. These roads are an important part of the access network New Zealanders can use.

WAMS makes it easy to locate and visit some of our country’s most spectacular scenery. A good example is the list of eight gem recreation sites listed in the Bay of Plenty region as part of the Virtually on Track project. The project is a partnership between the regional Department of Conservation (DOC) office, Sport Bay of Plenty and Sport NZ, with the support of local councils. It is designed to connect some of the region’s natural resources with recreation activities.

A large component of the Virtually on Track project is its links with technology. This is where WAMS makes a difference, by helping connect people to listed gem sites such as Rotorua Eastern Lakes, Waihi Beach and Papamoa Hills Regional Park.

Alongside WAMS, the Outdoor Access Code provides guidelines for walking in the outdoors. This includes advice on how to respectfully access Māori land, as well as common sense rules on topics like lighting fires and what to do when crossing private land.

In a beautiful country like ours, it’s hard to resist the pull of the outdoors. When we head out, it pays to be properly informed about our destination to ensure we are considerate of others and mindful of our environment. By being informed, and thoughtful, we can help perpetuate a culture of access, of sharing our inheritance.

So next time you wander into the outdoors, make sure you understand the environment you’re going into. You’ll still have an adventure. But this way you’ll help preserve our natural heritage, maintain a climate of respect, and enable many others to wander happily.



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James Heffield - who has written 1 post
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