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Seven Principles of Leave No Trace



Plan Ahead and Prepare


Travel and Camp on Durable Ground


Dispose of Waste Properly


Leave What You Find


Minimise the Effects of Fire


Respect Wildlife and Farm Animals


Be Considerate of Others


More information on each of the principles is contained in the Skills and Ethics Pocket Guide – New Zealand edition.  See our Resources menu for this and more information.

The goal of the seven principles is to help people make good decisions about caring for our natural and cultural heritage areas . Leave No Trace depends on your awareness rather than on rules and regulations.

Minimum impact travel and outdoor recreation practices must be flexible and need judgement and experience. Techniques are continually evolving and improving and are based upon scientific research, though influenced by environmental ethics. The general rule is to consider the specifics of each area in terms of culture, wildlife, vegetation, soil, climate, and number of people. Then, use this information to choose the best ways to enjoy these areas sustainably.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Kia tika mai te mahere, i mua i te haerenga

“Good planning is living the experience in advance.” - Sir Edmund Hillary

Plan ahead by considering your goals and those of your group. Prepare by gathering local information, communicating expectations, and getting the technical skills, first aid knowledge, and equipment to make the trip a success. Build Leave No Trace into your plans by picking an appropriate journey for your group and allowing plenty of time to travel and camp.

Be prepared to sit tight or turn back if you sense danger or sustain an injury. That way, you won’t have to abandon Leave No Trace techniques for the sake of safety. For instance, poor planning or disregard for weather conditions can turn an easy bushwalk into a risky encounter with extremes in temperatures. Cold and wet or suffering from heat stress, it’s impossible to leave no trace.

Travel and Camp on Durable Ground

Kaua koe e kōtiti i ngā arahikoi, kia tika mai koe te wāhi, hopuni ai

"The science of nature and the ethics of nature are no longer separate disciplines. Finding out about natural kinds constituting the environment enables us to see not only how the environment may be protected, but also that it should be protected" - Nicholas Agar

What effect does a footstep have? The answer is, it depends!

A footstep means different things to a young tree or pasture, to leaf litter or fragile soil, to a gravelly river bank or rain forest moss. Recovery that takes a year in some environments might take 25 years in others.  Sticking to the tracks is best because they are specifically made for walking on. 

If there are no tracks, avoid non-durable ground such as soft plants, stream edges, muddy sites, and fragile soil layers. When travelling along a shoreline, walk on durable surfaces and spread out while when travelling on the tops above the treeline.  Watch out for smaller plants and boggy areas.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Kaua koe e tukinotia i a Papatuānuku

"Man is the conscious mind of Mother Earth and plays a vital part in the regulation of her life support systems and man's duty is to enhance and sustain those systems" - Rev Maori Marsden & Te Aroha Henare

“Pack it in, pack it out”. Any user of our outdoors has a responsibility to clean up before he or she leaves. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for rubbish or spilled foods. Pack out all rubbish and kitchen waste, including leftover food.

Lead by example. Pick up any rubbish you see not just your own.

Never miss an opportunity to use a proper toilet facility and don’t dispose of your rubbish in them.  If there are no toilets - be prepared and know how and where to dig catholes or when to carry it out. 

Leave What You Find

Kaua koe e raweketia ngā wāhi tapu,me ngā wāhi motuhake rānei

"Long ago the Old People learned to share without touching, to take but not destroy, to merge with the wairua of their creation and to respect with love. In this action of heart and mind, the secrets of the forests, mountains and rivers were thus revealed"  - Mitaki Ra 

People visit natural areas for many reasons, among them to explore nature’s mysteries and surprises.

When we leave rocks, shells, plants, feathers, fossils, artefacts and other objects of interest as we find them, we pass the gift of discovery on to those who follow.  Leaving what you find should be your first thought when you find something interesting or attractive. 

There may be times and places when it is OK to collect something (for example for a child to collect some seashells or pretty rocks on a beach).  But remember, we humans are very good at taking without thinking and there should be places where we show self-control.  Mostly it is better to hold back and leave what we find, rather than have a shelf full of lifeless and dusty unvalued souvenirs. 

Particularly, never disturb culturally sensitive sites.

Minimise the Effects of Fire

Me tupato koe ki ngā ariā o te ahi

“In gaining the lovely and the usable, we have given up the incomparable.” - Wallace Stegner

Fires destroy important natural areas each year, including surprisingly wetlands. Many of these fires are either carelessly or accidentally set by uninformed campers and travellers. Large uncontrolled wildfires set unintentionally can spread rapidly and result in the critical loss of natural habitat, property and human life. First check whether fires are permitted in the place you are going.

Along with the destructive nature of fire, the natural appearance of many areas has been compromised by the careless use of campfires and the demand for firewood. Campfires are beautiful by night. But the enormous rings of soot-scarred rocks – overflowing with ashes, partly burned logs, food and rubbish – are unsightly. Surrounding areas have been stripped of their natural beauty as every scrap of dry wood has been torched.

Leave No Trace educates people on whether a fire is appropriate, and techniques that can be used to minimise the harm they cause.

Respect Wildlife and Farm Animals

Me kauanuanu koe ki ngā kararehe katoa

"Ultimately, to coexist we have to change, to accept that nature isn't a factory constructed for us - accept that we are part of it, not its masters" - Geoff Park

Encounters with wildlife inspire wonder. Unfortunately, wildlife in New Zealand faces threats from loss and fragmentation of habitat, invasive species, pollution, over-exploitation, poaching and disease.

Our parks and reserves offer a last refuge from some, but not all of these problems. That is why wild animals and marine life need people who will treat them with respect rather than add to the difficulties they already face. If wild animals are changing their behaviour because of our actions, we are too close and interfering with their normal behaviour.  Never feed wildlife- human food is toxic to many birds and it attracts them to carparks and other areas where they are likely to be injured.  We need to share the outdoors not invade it.

Be Considerate Of Others

Me whaiwhakaaro koe, ki ētahi atu

“Silence is the element in which all great things are fashioned.” - Thomas Carlyle

Today, we must consider the rights of traditional land owners as well as share the wilderness with people of all recreational persuasions. There is simply not enough country for every category of enthusiast to have exclusive use of land, wilderness, trails, bush, lakes, rivers, and campgrounds. Consider others, and what they might be trying to get out of their outdoor experience.

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.