The Walking Access Commission has provided online maps for all roads in New Zealand including unformed legal roads (ULRs) at http://wams.org.nz/wams
A ULR - sometimes known colloquially as a paper road - is a parcel of land that has been legally designated as a road but has not been formed. Formed means physically constructed and includes gravelling, metalling, sealing or permanently surfacing the road.
The Courts have ruled that land included in official survey plans as road is legally road even if it has not been pegged out on the ground and not formed in any way. In short, from a legal perspective, ULRs are as good as any other road.
The term “paper road” is often used interchangeably with ULR. The New Zealand Walking Access Commission does not use the term paper road as this implies that the road has less status than formed roads.
Most ULRs came into existence in the original subdivision of land by the Crown in the 19th century for sale to settlers. When subdividing the land, surveyors made provision for roads to enable access to the land being sold. Many of these roads were never formed. Some roads formed in the past are no longer maintained by the responsible territorial authority and have reverted to being unformed. The early surveys also reserved land alongside the coast, rivers and lakes for public useand designated this land as road.
The amount of ULR in New Zealand is estimated to be around 56,000 kilometres. The proportion of ULR varies considerably from local authority to local authority.
ULRs are no different in law from formed roads. Almost all have a nominal width of 20 metres, implying that they can be used by vehicles. The public have the right to use them on foot, on horse, or in vehicles without hindrance from the adjoining landholder or anyone else. However, users of these roads must consider others, including adjoining landholders and their property. The general rules of the road apply and territorial authorities have powers to manage the roads.
ULRs may be unsuitable for vehicle use and even for walking, because of the topography that they traverse.