A gate at the centre of a dispute between Mahia residents and forestry company PF Olsen is likely to be illegal, according to a Crown agent.
The gate temporarily blocked access to a paper road before it was removed by frustrated locals.
Wairoa District Council has asked the Mahanga Rd landowner, PF Olsen, to find an alternative gate site which does not restrict access to the paper road.
PF Olsen is yet to comment publicly on the dispute.
New Zealand Walking Access Commission chief executive Ric Cullinane urged PF Olsen to get in touch with his organisation.
NZWAC Ara Hikoi Aotearoa is the Crown agent responsible for outdoor access issues.
Cullinane said the landowners were best to negotiate with locals and the council to find a solution which "affirms that legal right but addresses some of the concerns the landowner might have".
"We have a lot of experience with these sorts of problems.
"There are often many other ways to address the concerns landowners have without removing people's outdoor public access - these might involve fences, signs or restrictions on some dangerous activities."
"We'd advise the landowner to give us a call so we can find a sustainable long-term solution that works better for everyone and gets the community and the landowner working together, rather than angry."
Cullinane said it was illegal to erect gates that blocked access to paper roads without council permission.
"Landowners cannot put gates, locked or unlocked, on unformed legal roads without the permission of councils and if they do, the gate has to have a sign letting people know it continues to be public access''.
According to Mahia residents, the road near Te Au Forest was closed to vehicles after Cyclone Bola in 1988, but had been frequented by walkers and bikes since.
When the gate was removed a letter written on behalf of the Mahia community was transcribed on to the back of a PF Olsen sign.
The message warned PF Olsen to "put the gates back at your peril" and said the pathways, known as "the Mahanga way", had been used by ancestors for centuries.
It said the locals intended for the walkway to remain public.
"The community has discussed the gate and we decided to remove it ourselves," it said.