This paper critically examines the intersection of several key factors influencing access to nature-based resources in New Zealand’s public lands. Particular attention is directed to three major global influences on such access: international tourism, New Zealand’s increased exposure to global market-driven philosophies, and the increasing prominence worldwide of indigenous land-rights movements. These influences embody important notions of property rights and rights of ownership in NewZealand. Out of a beginning which promised a wealth of public access to natural areas has grown a strong New Zealand outdoor tradition. Today, the terrain which fostered this tradition is passionately contested and the sustainability of access to public lands is threatened. In the last decade, free public access has been progressively eroded, and, among other developments, there has been a tendency for commodification and privatisation of public lands. These significant changes stem from a broader, ideologically driven social and economic revolution, which has taken place in New Zealand. In parallel with this economic and social revolution, the legitimate and historically marginalised claims of the indigenous Maori people for sovereignty over land and resources have begun to be addressed. In an environment characterized by rapid, radical, globally induced change, the sustainability of cultural traditions, such as access rights to the countryside, will continue to be a source of controversy.