South Waikato District Plan

10 Natural Environment Values

10.4-PA  Public Access


The maintenance and enhancement of public access to and along lakes and rivers is a matter of national importance under Section 6(d) of the Act. It is also necessary in order to give effect to the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River. Objective L of the Vision and Strategy is “The promotion of improved access to the Waikato River to better enable sporting, recreational and cultural opportunities.”  This Objective also applies to the other rivers in the District within the Waikato River catchment.   Public access is part of achieving the Vision “for a future where a healthy Waikato River sustains abundant life and prosperous communities who, in turn, are all responsible for restoring and protecting the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River, and all it embraces, for generations to come”.



To maintain and enhance public access to lakes and rivers in the district, particularly those locations identified as being of high priority due to their ecological or recreational values, where public access is compatible with protecting ecological values.


To improve public access to the Waikato River, Te Waihou and other waterways within the District to better enable recreational and cultural opportunities.


To safeguard the natural and recreational values of the Waikato River and its margins while enabling existing rural land-uses and electricity generating infrastructure and electricity transmission and distribution lines


To recognise and provide for the relationship Raukawa and the Te Arawa River Iwi as Tangata Whenua have with the Waikato River within the district.


To safeguard the significant natural and recreational values associated with the high quality water resources of Te Waihou River and its tributaries.



Esplanade reserves and esplanade strips shall be created in identified high priority locations, to provide ecological linkages, improve water quality and enhance public access to lakes and rivers and their margins within the district.


To implement the Objectives of the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River by managing subdivision and land-use within areas with natural values and located within the River catchment in a way that restores and protects the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River, by creating esplanade reserves or strips.


Improve public access to and along the Waikato River, Te Waihou and other waterways by requiring esplanade reserves or esplanade strips at sites identified on the planning maps at the time of subdivision and by keeping options open for future public use of the river edge through enforcing building setbacks.


Establish and manage a network of well-maintained public reserves that serve neighbourhood, town and district-wide needs for active and passive recreation and biodiversity corridors, including linked parks and walkways along the urban streams.


PA-R1-Esplanade Reserves

Council will not require an esplanade reserve to be set aside from land being subdivided or roads being stopped, unless:

(1) The land is located within Tokoroa township and adjoins the bank of the Whakauru Stream or Matarawa Stream as shown on the planning map NVO 10.

(2) The land is located within Putaruru township and adjoins the bank of the Oraka Stream as shown on the planning map NVO 3.

(3) The land is located within Tīrau township and adjoins the bank of the Oraka Stream, upstream of Okoroire Road as shown on the planning maps NVO 1 and 3.

(4) The land adjoins the Pokaiwhenua Stream, from upstream of Waotu Road to the existing reserve (at confluence with the Ngutuwera Stream) as shown on the planning maps 3 and 6.

PA-R2 - Esplanade Strips

(1) Public Access

An esplanade strip for public access purposes may be required (subject to  PA-R4 below) over land being subdivided or roads being stopped which adjoin the following rivers (shown on the planning maps):

(a) The Whakauru Stream north of Tokoroa to its confluence with the Matarawa Stream

(b) The Matarawa Stream north of Tokoroa to its confluence with the Whakauru Stream

(c) The Pokaiwhenua Stream between Duxfield Reserve and the Waikato River

(d) The Oraka Stream from Putaruru to Tīrau, upstream of Okoroire Road

(e) The Oraka Stream upstream from Putaruru township to Domain Road

(f) The Little Waipa Stream from the Waikato River upstream to the existing reserve (3km north of Arapuni Road)

(g) Te Waihou River, downstream of State Highway 5 to Okoroire

(h) The Waimakariri Stream from its confluence with the Te Waihou River, upstream to the existing reserve.

(2) Waikato River

An esplanade strip for public access, will be required (subject to PA-R3below) over land being subdivided or roads being stopped which adjoin the Waikato River.

PA-R3 Width of Reserves and Strips

(1) Esplanade reserves will be 20 metres wide if adjoining the water bodies specified in PA-R1 above.

(2) Esplanade strips for public access purposes will be 10 metres wide, unless a greater width is needed to provide a workable walkway.

(3) The standard widths in (1) or (2) above may be reduced in circumstances where:

(a) Other parts of the reserve or strip are correspondingly wider

(b) A full width reserve or strip would pass too close to an existing dwelling, or

(c) The objectives of the reserve or strip can still be met by a reduced width.

(4) Esplanade strips for public access may be dispensed with altogether in cases where Council is satisfied that the objectives of the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River will still be met despite the dispensation, and:

(a) Adequate legal access to the waterbody is provided by a legal road (formed or not)

(b) Access along the other side of the waterbody is more practical, and access is not needed on both sides

(c) Topography along the strip makes access unworkable

(d) The site of the strip is unlikely to ever be accessible from a public road

(e) The strip would lead to an area of indigenous vegetation or wetland, and public access would be incompatible with the effective protection of that area

(f) The purpose of the strip can be achieved by other methods, e.g. covenants, or

(g) Public safety would be compromised by providing a strip.

PA-R4 Standard Conditions of an Esplanade Strip for Public Access

The “Esplanade Strip instrument” which creates the strip is registered on land titles and contains a number of standard conditions including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) The following acts are prohibited on the strip:

(a) Wilfully endangering, disturbing, or annoying any lawful user of the strip (including the owner or occupier of the strip)

(b) Wilfully damaging or interfering with any structure adjoining or on the land, including any building, fence, gate, stile, marker, bridge or notice

(c) Wilfully interfering with or disturbing any livestock lawfully permitted on the strip.

(2) The following further acts are prohibited on the strip:

(a) Lighting any fire

(b) Carrying any firearm

(c) Discharging or shooting any firearm

(d) Camping

(e) Bringing any dog onto the strip, except on a lead

(f) Bringing any horse onto the strip, except with the permission of the owner or occupier of the strip

(g) Taking any vehicle onto, or driving or having any charge or control of any vehicle on the land (whether the vehicle is motorised or non-motorised)

(h) Wilfully damaging or removing any plant (unless acting in accordance with the Noxious Plants Act 1978 or the Biosecurity Act 1993)

(i) Laying any poison or setting any snare or trap (unless acting in accordance with the Agricultural Pest Act 1967 or the Biosecurity Act 1993)

(j) Being on the land during hours of darkness.

The prohibitions referred to in paragraphs (a) to (j) above do not apply to the owner or occupier of the strip, the grantee or the Waikato Regional Council where the latter is engaged in river control works.

(3) Any fencing (including costs) whether temporary or permanent, bounding the strip and the landowner’s other land shall be the responsibility of the landowner. Where Council and the landowner however agree that extra fencing needs to be erected for the safety or convenience of the public using the strip, the costs of this fencing shall be settled by negotiation

(4) Stiles are to be provided where fences cross the strip. The responsibility (including costs) for providing stiles shall be borne by the Council. Council will consult the landowner prior to undertaking any work on the strip including provision of stiles and walking paths

(5) Any person shall have the right to pass and re-pass over and along the strip between dawn and dusk except as specified in (a) or( b) below:

(a) All persons using a strip which does not contain a walkway formed or marked by the Council must advise the landowner concerned prior to use

(b) The strip may be closed to public access by the landowner during lambing/calving times and when a hazard to people using the strip is present. Such hazards include tree felling, blasting, earthmoving and pest control operations, land instability, flooding and flood damage.

PA-R5- Other Plan Matters

The following also may be relevant:

(1) Section 7.1 Energy, 7.2 Infrastructure, 7.3 Transportation

(2) Section 8.1 Contaminated Land, 8.3 Natural Hazards

(3) Section 9.1 Historic Heritage, 9.2 Sites and Areas of Significance to Māori

(4) Section 10.1 Ecosystems and Indigenous Biodiversity, 10.2 Natural Character, 10.3 Natural Features and Landscapes

(5) Chapter 11 Subdivision       

(6) Section 12.1 All Activities

(7) Section 12.2 Activities on the Surface of Water, 12.3 Air Emissions, 12.4 Earthworks, 12.5 Financial Contributions, 12.6 Light, 12.7 Noise, 12.8 Signs, 12.9 Temporary Activities

(8) Part 3- Any relevant zone or overlay

PA- Other Methods


Negotiation of access strip agreements to provide public access to lake and river margins in a priority case where a subdivision is not proposed

PA- Principal Reasons


The district plan has identified the land parcels around water bodies that are considered to be a high priority for creation of esplanade strips or esplanade reserves to enhance public access. They are a mechanism provided in the Act whereby Council can, when considering resource consents, require public reserves to be created or legal agreements to be established, to enable public access to or along any river or lake, or to enable public recreational use of the esplanade reserve or strip, where the use is compatible with conservation values.


The other important purpose of esplanade reserves and esplanade strips is to give effect to the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River, as mandated under the Waikato River Acts.

PA- Anticipated Results


Public access to waterways is improved, and the conservation values associated with riparian areas are enhanced.