Accessing Private Land for Adventure Riding

While there may be plenty of publicly accessible routes to ride, there are some amazing routes that make their way through private land. In many instances you can access and ride through some of this private land, however it is very important to follow the right process. Failing to do it the right way will normally result in a big NO to your access request and do more damage than good.

Doing It The Right Way

Entering private property without permission or trying to lean on landowners with quotes about legal access rights is the worst thing you can possibly do. It is a sure-fire way to aggravate land owners and jeopardise access opportunities for you and everyone else.

After spending nearly a decade adventure riding in New Zealand and successfully accessing numerous private properties all around the South Island I've learnt that the best way to go about getting access to private property revolves around one single word; respect.

If we take a step back, a private land owner is just a person like you and me. No one likes to be disrespected; everyone likes to be respected. It’s very simple stuff.  Calling the land owner to politely ask for access permission is the first step of the correct process to demonstrate respect for them and their land.

Be Proactive

Sometimes it can be a lot of work tracking down the land owner and their phone number. You may need to do lots of web research or make numerous phone calls to DOC, councils, local pubs etc to track the land owners down. In some cases land owners may reside overseas. Sometimes this step can take a lot of time.

Be Considerate

Once you have got the phone number for the landowner make sure you call at a considerate time. No late night calls and no early morning calls. 

Be Patient

Once you speak with the landowner you may find that you are not granted access immediately. This is normal; access to private land is in high demand these days. The best thing you can do is remain respectful, express you're interested in passing through their property and ask when the next possible date would be convenient for them. Don’t be pushy or you’ll get a no, simple as that.

Until you prove yourself and build a good relationship with the land owner it is possible that you may not get access immediately. You’ll likely go on a waiting list that could contain other riders, hunters, fishermen, hikers, or commercial ventures. Not forgetting that access to farmland is often heavily influenced by farming operations or seasonal events such as lambing. Getting access could take a few weeks or even a few months. Be patient.

Be Responsible

When you finally do get access permission make sure you don't burn your bridges. Leaving gates open, riding aggressively around stock or straying from the track when you've been asked not to is a sure-fire way to demonstrate you’re irresponsible and guarantee you'll never be able to return. If you are considerate, respectful and do everything that the landowner asks then they will appreciate this and should have no problems letting you back on their property again.

Be Generous

Accessing private land normally comes with a small track maintenance fee. This can be in the form of cash, a slab of their favourite beer or a bottle of their favourite wine. When you are accessing private property as a group, the cost between all of you is pretty minimal. If you want to make a good impression then be generous. If they ask for a slab of beer, bring them two. If they ask for a bottle of wine; bring them some nice cheeses too. A small gesture like this goes a long way to building a good relationship.

The Golden Rule

Golden rule for accessing private land is to forget all preconceived ideas about “your rights” to access private land. Simply focus on being respectful, courteous and friendly throughout every step of the process. It's surprisingly effective.

Author of this article: RMOTO