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National Park must be protected

15 September 2006 - Wellington

National Park must be protected from road construction

Forest & Bird has called on Otago Conservation Board and Conservation Minister Chris Carter not to accept a recommendation to allow a road to be built in Mount Aspiring National Park.

Director-General of Conservation Alastair Morrison has recommended that an amendment be made to the Mount Aspiring National Park Management Plan that could see a 1.5km road built in the park.

Forest & Bird’s Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell said this ad hoc decision was unnecessary when the whole Mt Aspiring National Park Management Plan was currently under review.

The road, off the Routeburn Road, would lead to a private tunnel to the Hollyford Road, which Milford Dart Limited plans to build to provide alternative access to Milford Sound.

Kevin Hackwell says the construction of a road would be detrimental to the natural wilderness of Mount Aspiring National Park, and breached the nationally accepted principle that new roads should not be built in national parks.

The proposed road is close to the start of the Routeburn track, one of New Zealand’s star tramping attractions, and will pass through important habitat of the endangered mohua (yellowhead).

Part of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, Mount Aspiring’s 355,000 hectares include remote wilderness, alpine peaks and river valleys. Its thick beech forests are home to a wide range of native and rare species, including rifleman, bellbird, South Island robin, yellow-crowned parakeet, mohua, morepork and native bats.

“Much of the value of the national park is its remoteness and unspoiled wilderness – the construction of a new road is inconsistent with those values,” Kevin Hackwell says.

He says the amendment is being rushed through, and should instead be considered as part of the current review of the whole management plan for the park. The road and tunnel would not resolve the problem of overcrowding in the middle of the day at Milford Sound, he said.

“The proposed management plan for the adjoining Fiordland National Park contains new measures to address overcrowding at Milford Sound, and these should be given time to work before new incursions into the national park are considered.”

“While we want both overseas tourists and New Zealanders to enjoy the scenic wonders of our national parks, we must do so in a way that preserves the very things they have come to see – our unspoiled natural wilderness.”

ENDS


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