There seems to be an interesting evolution of some of those New Zealand four wheelers who a few years ago were rather ‘anti organisation’, but almost without realising it they appear to becoming organised. By establishing websites and social media identities, surely they might have to consider themselves as ‘organised’? As a long time commentator on the need for responsibility in our recreation, it is also good to note the encouragement of that too. In an ideal world, it would be great to have more integration of all four wheelers to create a unified voice for 4x4 recreation in NZ. At present we have the New Zealand Four Wheel Drive Association Inc. ( NZFWDA) and Combined 4WD Clubs Inc. as the faces of ‘organised ‘ four wheeling. The NZFWDA has reasonably good links to government bodies like the Department of Conservation ( DoC) and Walking Access Commission, etc. while not being particularly good at communicating via the increasingly popular social media. The newer groups have ‘organised’ using social media and have those skills, but not the direct connections to bureaucracy. The conventional structure of most 4x4 clubs and representative organisations like the NZFWDA does allow those groups to engage with local authorities and government organisations in a formal manner, including things like memorandums of understandings ( MOU), partnerships and funding of projects. New Zealand is not big enough to have fragmented representation to contend with the recent trends of health and safety laws, a growing emphasis on other uses of public lands and environmental expectation for 4x4 use. If somehow the various sectors could be brought together, we could have a remarkable influence on the future of four wheeling. Yes, there would need to be ‘rules’, just as our general life and even social media has rules. Rules can have benefits, such as an ability to get insurances because you are part of an organisation with certain standards, some access opportunities are generated for the same reasons and it’s your choice to actively participate as a member, or simply belong and take the benefits without engaging. I push this ‘unity’ because there are complementary skills in the 4x4 community that, if working together, could make a significant difference to future access opportunities. It is an election year too and we need to be very aware of what effect the Green Party in a government might mean to our use of DoC lands. I mentioned earlier the ability for many established ( incorporated) groups to form ‘partnerships’ with DoC, which in theory means that managed access to an area may be allowed for up to ten years. These agreements have in general, been slow to initiate, with only one in operation for four wheeling and that was put together by the King Country 4WD Club for specific 4x4 areas in Pureora Forest. The pending agreement for the Maratoto area was initiated by Auckland 4WD Club in early 2014, taken over by the NZFWDA and at the time of writing is still not finalised. DoC introduced the concept of partnering with four wheel drive clubs at a NZFWDA conference back in 2012. Processes like partnerships are perhaps something that might be enhanced by greater involvement of those four wheelers currently outside the NZFWDA, with their ability to use social media and its influence. As I’ve identified in past columns, the contest for use of public lands is in full swing and four wheeling is being slow in staking a claim. It is no longer useful to have ‘secret’ tracks with no recognition; if such a route is claimed by another recreation, there will be lit tle that can be done to claim it back! Four-wheeling will need to ‘own’ routes and take responsibility for their standards if we are to retain any access on public lands. It can be achieved with a will to do it and a unified approach.
A unified approach will help keep trails open for 4WDs.