High hopes for national park

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The expected completion of tenure review for Southland’s Glenaray Station this year will be an important step in creating a Remarkables National Park, a proponent says.

Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) president Peter Wilson says he’s as optimistic about the park’s prospects as he was last June, when FMC and Forest & Bird launched their campaign to lobby for the proposal.

Finalising the tenure review process for the 65,000-hectare Glenaray Station, which runs through the heart of the area and links several existing conservation areas together, is a key milestone.

It could be completed within the next six months.

“That’s the key moment for making a decision about the future land status of the area. We’ll get to see what land we’ve got to play with.

we’ve got to see which model for a national park can be put in place that would address iwi concerns.”

The proposed park spans a vast area of Otago and Southland that includes the Remarkables, Hector, Garvie, Old Man and Old Woman mountain ranges. It would encompass the watersheds of the Wye, Nevis, Waikaia and Pomahaka rivers, and traverse or neighbour many high country stations.

FMC argues the land is inadequately protected under its current stewardship land status, and could be mined or swapped.

Wilson says it has discussed the proposal with Ngai Tahu, which has concerns.

“I’m keen to keep talking to them about that to see which ways you can better address iwi values, and get that into the national park’s framework.”

He was encouraged by an agreement reached by four Taranaki iwi as part of Treaty of Waitangi settlement negotiations that would give them sovereignty over land within Egmont National Park.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has indicated her support, but the final decision will be made by the New Zealand Conservation Authority, not Department of Conservation, Wilson says.

The authority has begun reviewing its general policy for national parks, and FMC will be pushing for a better framework to recognise iwi values.

He is surprised the most negative reaction to the proposal has come from “low-level” DoC staff in the area.

“I think it’s important for the department not to insert their own views – they work on behalf of the public.

“You need to go back to the law and recognise your place within it.”

ed@scene.co.nz