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Conservation Park proposal for Aotea / Great Barrier Island

Have your say on Conservation Park proposal for Aotea / Great Barrier Island

From tomorrow (Thursday) until February 28, the Department of Conservation is seeking public feedback on a proposal to declare a conservation park on Aotea/Great Barrier Island.

The Aotea Conservation Park proposal covers 12,100 ha and includes stewardship land on the island managed by DOC under the Conservation Act 1987. DOC manages 60% of the island’s land, and a large portion of this currently carries the relatively low protection “stewardship area” status.

Meg Poutasi, DOC’s Auckland Director of Conservation Partnerships, says the new proposal strengthens protection for this land and its environment, and increases potential tourism benefits.

“Aotea/Great Barrier Island is a unique environment with an amazing diversity of native flora and fauna.

“From DOC’s perspective, the conservation park proposal appears to be a win-win for the Barrier, with no impact to private land or the day to day operations on the island. Conservation park status ensures better protection for these natural and historic resources, and also increases opportunities for public recreation and enjoyment of these features.

“With the submission process we want to hear what local residents and the wider community think of the proposal.”

In August 2013, a report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright identified numerous areas of DOC estate that have significant conservation value, yet have the relatively low stewardship area status. In response to this report, the Minister of Conservation directed DOC to investigate changing the status of stewardship areas on Aotea/Great Barrier Island as high priority work.

A DOC discussion paper outlines the proposal’s implications for cultural values, recreation, concessions and tourism opportunities, biodiversity management, and historic assets management.

It predicts the park’s higher protection status will also increase awareness about the land’s unique natural, historic, cultural and recreational values, and tourism opportunities for public access and outdoor recreation.

The proposed conservation park area mainly covers the central and northern parts of the island, and includes the already protected Hirakimata-Kaitoke Swamp Ecological Area and Wairahi Forest Sanctuary. These unique habitats retain their original classification while also being part of the Conservation Park area. The proposal does not impact private land or Maori-owned land, nor does it preclude the use of land for future Treaty settlements.

Following the close of submissions on 28 February 2014, DOC will hold hearings for any submitters wishing to be heard. DOC will then analyse all submissions and hearings evidence, before preparing a report with recommendations for the Minister of Conservation, who will make the final decision.

Complete information about the submission process, including an online submission form, is available from 8am tomorrow (Thursday) at www.doc.govt.nz/aoteaconservationpark/


(ends)

See attached map for areas of DOC land included in proposed Aotea / Great Barrier Island Conservation Park.
GBI_Reclassification_allReserves_Nov2013.pdf

EXTRA INFORMATION: Special features of Aotea / Great Barrier Island

Aotea/Great Barrier Island is a rugged landscape, with a prominent axial range and steep forest covered hills, and a variety of coastal features. In the island’s centre, spectacular bluffs and ridges rise to the highest peak, Hirakimatā/Mt Hobson (627m).

There are extensive areas of tall forest, regenerating forest and shrublands. The natural values of the island make Aotea/Great Barrier Island of national and international significance.

At least 75 species of regionally and nationally threatened vascular plants, including the endemic prostrate kānuka and Great Barrier tree daisy are present on the island, making it one of the richest areas for plant biodiversity in the Auckland region.

The island is a stronghold for North Island kākā, mohopereru/banded rail and one of New Zealand’s rarest ducks, pāteke/brown teal. Other threatened bird species on the island include pūwheto/spotless crake and mātātā/fernbird, tāiko/ black petrel, and tītī/Cook’s petrel.

Other threatened species of note include the only island population of pepeketua/Hochstetter’s frog, and niho taniwha/chevron skink, which is only found on Aotea/Great Barrier Island and Te Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier Island.

Aotea/Great Barrier Island’s streams and wetlands have more native freshwater fish than any other offshore island in New Zealand. Invertebrates are also found in great diversity, and include an unusual native paua slug, which grows to 100 millimetres long.

The island is the ancestral land of the Ngāti Rehua Ngātiwai ki Aotea hapū, who are the tangata whenua and mana whenua of Aotea/Great Barrier Island, Te Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier Island, the Pokohinu/the Mokohinau Islands, Rakitū/Arid Island, Rangiahua/Flat Island and other outlying islands and rocky outcrops.

The island has been inhabited for much of the last 700 years, resulting in a unique assemblage of historic sites and associations dating from some of the earliest known settlements in New Zealand. They include gardening, fishing, settlement, industrial, defensive and sacred sites from various periods of Maori occupation

The European history features successive forms of resource extraction such as gum digging, timber harvesting, mining, whaling, early farming and ship building.

DOC manages more than 100km of tracks, most of which are within the proposed conservation park. Two of the six coastal campgrounds serviced by the Department, and two huts, are also within the proposed park. Other recreational activities within the proposed conservation park include mountain biking and hunting.

Visitors are attracted to Aotea/Great Barrier Island for its relatively undeveloped landscape, the combination of natural, cultural and historic heritage, and the community. It is one of the few places in the Auckland region where visitors can enjoy a recreational experience in a backcountry setting that is distant from the influence of the city.


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