Sea-air and common sense: Permitted movement in your local area when at Alert Level 4

Aug 26, 2021 11:57:29 AM / by Andrew Smith

iStock-636902112 beach and cars for web

Last weekend there were a lot of cars parked on the beachfronts of New Zealand while we were in level 4 lock down. A number of coastal locals were getting a bit grumpy, wanting to dob-in these (as they saw it) non-local lockdown breakers – feeling that they should be doing their exercise closer to home.

But is that fair?

The Government’s permitted personal movement rules under level 4 state that:

“You are allowed to leave your home or place of residence for recreation or exercise at an outdoor location in your local area that is easy to access (including by vehicle)…”

The big question is, “what exactly is your local area?

Is it a 5 minute walk, 10 minutes, or maybe 20 minutes? And how far away from a healthy outdoor location do you need to be before you can, justifiably, take your car?

Now, if you are fortunate enough to live close to the beach (or a park) then great, but what of those who don’t? What of those who live more than a reasonable walk away from a place of recreation?

And what is the impact on someone’s mental health of being effectively “landlocked in an urban area” - away from the health promoting benefits of sea-air and nature?

In the absence of a clear government directive on this, let’s go ahead and accept the premise that anyone that lives more than a 20 minute walk from the beach (in their local area) is within their rights to drive by car to the beach for some restorative coastal air.

Further, let’s take Kapiti, Wellington as a specific example. The map below uses NationalMap’s biometric walking network* to show the areas that are within a 20 minute walking distance (purple) and those that are outside of walking distance (everything that’s not purple).

Kapiti map

You can see that a significant group of people in Kapiti reside well outside of our 20 minute walking distance zone and would be reasonably justified in driving to the beach.

New Zealand’s beautiful and revitalising parks and coastline are for every one of the “team of 5 million” to enjoy and benefit from - as long as we are following the rules.

As Kiwis are renowned for their common sense, I’m pretty confident most of us are doing the right thing. Those cars at the beach are most probably from the local area and just ordinary Kiwis looking to exercise somewhere healthy so they can clear their heads during this stressful time. 

So, like many things in life, it’s probably a matter of walking (30 minutes?) in someone else’s shoes before being too quick to criticise


* This time is calculated, on NationalMap’s walking network, using Naismith’s rule (see elevation values from the High accuracy elevation data (1 metre LiDAR DEM/DSM) provided by LINZ