Same as SH12020-05-25T15:35:14+13:00

Same as State Highway 1


Unformed Legal Roads

New Zealand has approximately 56,000km of Unformed Legal Roads (ULR), also known as paper roads. The concept of ULRs is often poorly understood by the general public and politicians alike; yet paper roads have a well defined legal status and in many cases provide public access to public conservation land:

  • Unformed Legal Roads have the same legal status as any other road (including State Highway 1), which includes an absolute public right to use them for passage.
  • “Unformed” means that the surface is not graded for the use by vehicles. People do, however, have the right to walk on them, ride their bikes, a horse, etc.
  • Many ULRs are used by landholders as part of existing adjoining pasture or forestry and may be indistinguishable from the surrounding land. However, if someone says that a legal road ‘goes through a paddock’, they really mean that the road runs between two separate land parcels. The landowner doesn’t own the road, and has no more right to prevent use of the road than someone owning buildings on opposite sides of Queen Street could prevent someone walking down it.
  • Like all other legal roads, ULRs are generally 20m wide.
  • Farmers may put gates or cattle stops across roads that are not fenced for livestock control purposes. Gates may only be placed with the permission of the relevant territorial authority, may not be locked and must have a sign indicating that they are on a public road.

You can read more about Unformed Legal Roads on the Walking Access Commission website and on Wilderlife.


FMC’s #sameasSH1 campaign

  • FMC affirms the status of Unformed Legal Roads, and expects political parties to do the same
  • Unformed Legal Roads are generally under the jurisdiction of local authorities (city or district councils). In small communities, local authorities may give in to a farmer’s request to close a legal road. FMC asks that the legislation be changed, to transfer the authority on ULRs to the Walking Access Commission.
  • FMC supports the formation of some presently unformed legal roads, whether that’s simply by marking, cutting foot or MTB tracks, or even in rare circumstances for vehicle access, where this benefits the general public in providing access to Public Conservation Land.


What you can do

  • Inform others of the status of Unformed Legal Roads. Use the hashtag #sameasSH1 on social media
  • Report any illegally blocked ULRs to your local authorities. Request that any illegal obstacles be removed
  • Write to our politicians, asking for the authority on Unformed Legal Roads to be transferred to the Walking Access Commission