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Kaikoura Ranges Proposed as National Park

SUNDAY 20TH OCTOBER

Kaikoura Ranges Proposed as National Park


A Kaikoura Ranges national park would give dryland landscapes and their specialised rock and scree plant communities and habitats long overdue recognition, Forest and Bird Protection Society says.

"Such a park would improve the extent to which national parks represent the original character of New Zealand. It is also likely to benefit recreation and tourism in Kaikoura and Marlborough," Forest and Bird president Dr Gerry McSweeney said.

Forest and Bird today released a report, which makes the case for a new national park. The report summarises the conservation and recreation values of the Inland and Seaward Kaikoura Ranges and describes their importance.

The proposal involves 40,000 ha of conservation land administered by the Department of Conservation (DoC) and a further 41,000 ha of the former Clarence Reserve property, which the Nature Heritage Fund purchased in 1994 for transfer to DoC.

"The Kaikoura Ranges are a special part of New Zealand. They are the highest mountains in the country outside the central Southern Alps. This and their rapid tectonic uplift, the dry semi-continental climate of the Inland Kaikoura Range and Clarence Valley, and the diversity of native plants and animals present make the area nationally, and in some cases internationally, important," Dr McSweeney said.

"The South Marlborough area, of which the Kaikoura Ranges is a major part, is one of New Zealand's five most important mainland areas for species diversity, evolution and endemism."

"Forty six plant and animal species or sub-species are found naturally only in South Marlborough and nowhere else in the world. These include the showy Marlborough rock daisy, weeping tree broom, pink flowered tree broom, three species of sun hebe, the Kaikoura gecko and the Kaikoura giant weta," Dr McSweeney said.

The report says around 450 native plant species (almost 20% of New Zealand's vascular plant species) have been recorded from the Inland Kaikoura Range and 550 native plant species from the mainly limestone substrates of the Chalk Range - Isolated Hill area.

The Seaward Kaikoura Range provides the only mainland nesting area for Huttons shearwater and the easternmost habit for kea. New Zealand's only alpine lizard, the black-eyed gecko is found here.

"The only other place in New Zealand where high mountain ranges occur so close to the sea is in South Westland. The prolonged snow cover on the Kaikoura Ranges provides an impressive backdrop to Kaikoura township. A national park is likely to benefit both recreation and tourism though improved facilities, access and management," he said.

"The Kaikoura Ranges provide some of the highest peaks for climbing and tramping in the northern South Island and lower North Island. The Clarence River provides a superb four-six day rafting experience through dramatic and wild landscapes. The lower slopes of the Seaward Kaikoura Range such as around Mt. Fyffe provide scenic walking for the less adventurous."

The report is currently being considered by the New Zealand Conservation Authority. Under the National Parks Act 1980 the Authority can recommend to the Minister of Conservation that the area deserves formal investigation for a new national park.

Ends


Contact: Dr. Gerry McSweeney, President Ph. 03 318 9246; Eugenie Sage, field officer Ph. 03 3666 317 (wk) or 03 942 1251 (home)

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