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DOC pauses National Park Management Plan reviews

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has paused its review of two national park management plans while it works through the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision relating to Ngāi Tai.

Public feedback has been sought on the draft Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini national park management plans which outline how land, water, species, aircraft and visitors could be managed over the next 10 years. Both national parks are in the Ngāi Tahu takiwā and are of immense significance to the iwi.

DOC’s Director Planning, Permissions and Land, Marie Long says, “Following discussion with Ngāi Tahu last week, DOC decided to pause the current process so the implications of the landmark Ngāi Tai decision can be worked through.”

The Auckland iwi (Ngāi Tai) had argued that DOC did not properly give effect to section 4 of the Conservation Act, which relates to principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, when granting concessions for commercial activities on Motutapu and Rangitoto.

Last December, the Supreme Court found that decisions to grant concessions to third parties would need to include asking whether the concession opportunities should be preserved for the economic benefit of Ngāi Tai and whether there was any basis for the preferential grant of concessions to Ngāi Tai.

Marie Long says, “It is important to understand what the decision means for us and our Treaty Partners before we go any further on the review process for the national park management plans.”

“This provides an opportunity to ensure consistency between the Supreme Court decision and these plans. Any changes deemed necessary will be communicated with Conservation Boards and submitters.”

Marie Long says the decision to pause work to progress the plans has nothing to do with existing submissions or the opinions of any individual submitters.

“The submission period has only just closed and we have not had a chance to analyse or review submissions yet.”

“The submissions are still valuable because the viewpoints will be considered as we determine how we manage the parks in the future and what the next steps will be,” Marie Long says.

There will be further opportunity for engagement with conservation boards and submitters and existing National Park Management Plans will continue to be used in the meantime.

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