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Public recreation may suffer

10 March 2005

Public recreation may suffer from high profile parks

The enthusiasm of the Minister of Conservation and the Forest and Bird Society for the new Ahuriri Conservation Park, and a whole chain of other high country parks to follow, should be tempered by restraints on development, use, and commercialisation.

Public Access New Zealand (PANZ) was commenting on the Minister's enthusiasm at the prospect of filming in the park by "a whole spectrum of companies from international car makers to a Danish ice cream company."

PANZ spokesman Bruce Mason says that the statutory purpose of Conservation Parks is to facilitate public recreation and enjoyment, not commercial hullabaloo. How can there be "enjoyment of the peace and grandeur" of this area, as Forest and Bird claims will result from park status, if there are no restraints on incompatible and unnecessary commercial activity, Mr. Mason asks.

Park status adds nothing to the legal protection of the natural resources of the Ahuriri. The pre-existing conservation area provided all the legal protection and public rights that the area needed. There was also the option of reserve status.

Generations of recreational visitors have valued the Ahuriri Valley as a low-key, relatively low-use escape from the tourism hotspots now evident in most of the accessible Alps. The valley has provided increasingly scarce opportunities for ordinary New Zealanders to recreate in an alpine setting free of commercial pressures, large facilities, and high-profile 'Great Walks'.

A very real danger from the current 'parks' promotion is that every area will end up the same, with locals displaced by commercial operators, development, tourists, noise and congestion. PANZ believes that there is a pressing need for sensitive management of these public resources.

PANZ calls for Government to immediately instigate a management plan for the Ahuriri park, with full public consultation. There must also be a moratorium on the granting of commercial concessions and further development of facilities by DOC while this process is underway.

"Its about time the public at large had a say, and not just special interest groups and DOC determining the future of the high country", Mr. Mason concluded.


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