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Rakiura National Park Announced For Stewart Island

Stewart Island is to be the site of New Zealand's newest national park.

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee has announced on Stewart Island today in the presence of Prime Minister Helen Clark that the Government has accepted a recommendation by the NZ Conservation Authority to create the country's 14th national park.

Ms Lee said the new 163,000-hectare Rakiura national park alone covers some 85% of Stewart Island. Today's announcement comes after an extensive public consultation process.

"We will have a national park unique in New Zealand with unspoiled native ecosystems from scrub-covered mountain tops to the wild coastline, in a full circle of the compass," she said.

Ms Lee said the creation of the national park was facilitated by the "generous cooperation" of the Stewart Island community, Ngai Tahu, Rakiura iwi, and Southland's local authorities.

"I also wish to thank the NZ Conservation Authority and the Southland Conservation Board for the effective and competent way they advanced the national park proposal to this successful conclusion."

She said she had "pushed back" the boundary between the new park and private land from what had been suggested in the initial proposal, to satisfy community concerns about having a national park on their immediate doorstep while still protecting the island's conservation values.

"I also had to be aware that lifestyle of the people who live and work on Stewart Island needed to be accommodated," Ms Lee said. "It is their home as well as the nation's heritage. The new national park does not include any private land, Maori-owned land or any of the unallocated Crown islands.

She said Whero Rock, Bench Island and Whenua Hou--where the unique kakapo was being rescued from extinction--were excluded from the national park and retain their present status as nature reserves -a higher form of protection than national park.

Other small parcels of land such as the buffer zone around Oban, and reserves within the township, will be retained as conservation stewardship lands.

Ms Lee said the new national park status would mean recreational activities such as tramping and deer hunting will be encouraged, as they are now, but it would also mean simpler administration of the land.

"I have asked the Director-General of Conservation to help set up a group of central and local government and community representatives to identify ways in which the impact of the national park on the island's public facilities should be addressed, " Ms Lee said.

"I have undertaken this initiative in response to the Southland District Council's report on possible infrastructural issues that will arise now the creation of Rakiura National Park has been confirmed. The group will be chaired by the Department of Conservation and I am advised it will meet shortly to begin its work."

Rakiura was treasured in ancient times both for the beauty of its glowing skies and as Te Puka a Maui (the Anchor stone of Maui) keeping Te Waka a Maui (the South Island) steady in Moana a Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean).

"It was a haven in times of war and a place to feed and nurture the people who made their homes here," Ms Lee said.

"Many of their descendants still live here maintaining traditions of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of the natural resources of the island.

"It is a special relationship, which has been maintained over many generations. I commend Ngai Tahu, Rakiura Iwi and the Stewart Island community for wanting to share that special relationship with the rest of New Zealand,” she said.

Ends

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