The coast is widely regarded as an area of public open space which should be accessible to everyone. Public access to the shoreline is important in both heavily populated areas where demand is greatest, and in more remote areas where the solitude of the unspoilt coast can be enjoyed. A balance therefore, needs to be found between:
Under s6 of the RMA, Environment Waikato is required to recognise and provide for, as a matter of national importance:
the maintenance and enhancement of public access to and along the CMA.
This Plan emphasises that public access within the CMA (i.e. along the foreshore and across the water) should not be unduly restricted. This is reflected in the common law right of navigation, which provides for free access for ships and boats in coastal waters.
It is also recognised that access within the CMA, relies on access to the coast being provided. The provision of access to the coast is primarily the responsibility of territorial authorities and Transit New Zealand. There is therefore a need for integrated management between these agencies and communities when determining appropriate routes or levels of public access.
In New Zealand, no common law right of access exists over privately occupied land which, in some cases, extends down to Mean High Water Springs. Therefore, access through private property is at the discretion of the landowner. Public access can however, be provided, for example, by roads, reserves, access strips, walkways, easements (or rights of way), conservation areas, covenants and agreements.
Policy 3.5.1 of the NZCPS also identifies situations when it is appropriate to restrict public access. Such circumstances are reflected in Policy 9.1.1 of the Plan.