Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace New Zealand promotes and inspires responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships. It seeks to educate and challenge the New Zealand public and visitors on how and why to minimise their environmental impacts while enjoying natural and cultural heritage areas. You can do your part, inform yourself, seek out training and become an advocate for New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes.

The New Zealand Cycle Trail supports the seven principles by Leave No Trace, which are aimed at encouraging you to think about how to minimise the impact of your visits to the natural and cultural heritage areas of New Zealand. Leaving no trace depends on your awareness rather than on rules and regulations.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Be considerate of others
  3. Respect wildlife and farm animals
  4. Travel and camp on durable ground
  5. Leave what you find
  6. Dispose of waste properly
  7. Minimise the effects of fire

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Every outdoor activity is different in terms of environmental and safety aspects.

Before you go, check that access is permitted and that cycling is allowed in the place you plan to visit. Seek permission from private landowners, including tangata whenua when appropriate. Permits may be needed for certain activities such as fishing or hunting, or collecting natural materials.

Check the weather forecast and always be prepared for changing conditions

Cold, exhausted or unprepared people are more likely to leave a lasting impact. Plan to arrive at your destination in good time and with enough energy to make the best decisions for yourself and the environment. Good planning is the best way to have a great trip and leave no trace. Taking care of yourself comes first – safety is your responsibility.

Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use

Visiting popular destinations during high use periods, such as holidays and weekends, can be fraught with crowding and conflicts with other groups. If you can, plan your visit at other less busy times.

For environmental and safety reasons, keep group numbers small

Be prepared to split larger parties into smaller groups to help minimise the impact you leave on the environment and other people.


2. Be Considerate of Others

Share our tracks and waterways

We all enjoy the outdoors in different ways. Respect and expect others.

Give way to all

Make room for others. If you’re cycling, running or horse riding, control your speed, pass with care and let others know you are there, especially if you’re approaching them from behind.

Treat another’s property as you would treat your own

Respect locals and their property. Pass quietly through farmland and leave the gates as you found them. Share the huts you stay in and welcome others who arrive after you. Leave huts better than you found them.

Let nature’s sound prevail

Listen to nature. Try to keep your group’s noise level down, especially at night and in remote areas. Avoid the use of bright lights, mobile phones and other intrusive urban devices. To some, technology is a necessity even in remote places. To others, it is inappropriate.

Avoid conflicts by making a conscious effort to allow all people to choose their own experience.


3. Respect Wildlife and Farm Animals

As more people visit the outdoors, wildlife becomes affected by our presence. To avoid disturbing wildlife, observe animals from a distance. If the animal moves in response to your presence, you are too close. If you meet stock being shifted, look for instructions from the musterer to navigate your way through or past.

Never feed animals

Feeding endangers animal health and alters natural behaviours. Store your food and rubbish securely to avoid inadvertently feeding pests or endangered wildlife.

Avoid sensitive times

Lambing, mating, nesting or raising young are times when animals are most vulnerable to disturbance. Startled animals may abandon nests or their young resulting in the death of offspring.


4. Travel and Camp on Durable Ground

Stick to established tracks

Give plants and wild animals their place in the outdoors. Creating new tracks scars the landscape, causes erosion and intrudes on natural habitats.

Travel in the middle of the track

When we trample or ride through vegetation on the side of the track, there is a greater chance weeds will replace the native plants. Track edges are less durable and are damaged easily. Don’t skid, cut corners or make new lines. If you can, avoid riding in the mud and rain as this can damage soft, wet tracks.

Good campsites are found, not made

The best campsites are often well away from water sources and tracks. If you need to clear a site to make camp, consider whether this is the best site – there may be a better site nearby. If not, make your best choice and naturalise the areas with leaves or other available cover upon your departure. Avoid building structures, moving boulders or digging trenches.

In popular areas concentrate use on existing tracks and campsites. Keep campsites small and look for surfaces where vegetation is already absent.

In pristine areas avoid areas where impacts are just beginning and allow these areas to recover.


5. Leave What You Find

Conserve the past by not disturbing archaeological or historical areas. Many culturally significant sites are now parts of reserves and this is not always publically known, so treat these places with respect.

Enjoy but do not take

Leave natural objects undisturbed – these objects derive much of their beauty from their surroundings and never look quite the same back home.

Load your camera, not your packs. Take photos, drawings and memories as your souvenirs.

Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species

Clean your clothing, shoes, bike and other equipment after trips and before moving into a new water catchment area, to avoid spreading weeds and other unwelcome invaders. Inform yourself of specific identified risks such as didymo and kauri dieback disease.


6. Dispose of Waste Properly

Please take out all litter – yours and others

Rubbish is ugly and affects others’ outdoor experience. Even biodegradable materials, such as orange peel, apple cores and food scraps can take years to break down, and attract pests like rats and possums.

Minimise the impact of toilet waste

Never miss an opportunity to use a proper toilet facility and please don’t dispose of your rubbish in them.

Dispose of human waste responsibly. If you have to poo in the outdoors, do so in a hole dug 10 – 15cm deep at least 50m (100 steps) from water, campsites, and tracks. This will promote decomposition of the waste and reduce the likelihood that others may have unpleasant encounters. Cover and disguise the hole when you are finished and be sure to pack out all hygiene products in a plastic bag.

Soaps and shampoo damage fragile steam life

To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water well away from streams and lakes. Soaps, shampoo and detergents don’t belong in streams. If you must use them, use only small amounts of biodegradable products and rinse well away from streams.


7. Minimise the Effects of Fire

Even though campfires have been a part of the outdoors for a long time, the legacy of campfires and barbeques too often are charred picnic areas and rocks, large rubbish-filled fire rings, damaged trees and uncontrolled wildfires. Most people carry camping stoves and so fires are no longer necessary.

Fires can cause lasting impacts and be devastating to forests, natural habitats and farmland

Fires are potentially dangerous so use a high level of care. Follow local fire regulations and rules. Where fires are permitted and appropriate, use techniques to reduce your impact on the land and avoid leaving unsightly and ecologically damaging fire scars. Be wary of wind, dry grasses, overhanging branches or buildings spreading your fire. If in doubt, don’t light a fire, instead enjoy the stars and listen for the call of night birds.

Improving your fire building techniques helps minimise our impact

If you choose to have a fire, use established fire rings or mound fires. Be sure to keep your campfire small and under control. For firewood, use ‘dead and dainty’ sticks which can be broken by hand. Do not use live vegetation for firewood. Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out the campfire completely by dowsing with water and stirring with your bare hands. Fires are for wood and paper only. When plastic burns, it releases poisonous smoke. Metals, including cans and foil and glass do not burn.