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Kaikoura Ranges are a treasure house of diversity

Kaikoura Ranges are a treasure house of biological diversity

Forest and Bird has organised a road show in Kaikoura and Blenheim to seek public support for its Kaikoura Ranges national park proposal.

“The Kaikoura Ranges are a treasure house of New Zealand’s biological diversity. They have dramatic dryland landscapes and distinctive species such as giant weta, lizards and rare fragrant tree brooms which deserve better protection and more co-ordinated management,” Forest and Bird president, Dr Gerry McSweeney said.

“We will be sharing our enthusiasm for the area with public meetings in Kaikoura and Blenheim and meetings with neighbouring landholders and other interested parties,” he said.

“The Kaikoura Ranges contain the highest mountains in the country outside the central Southern Alps and Mount Aspiring.

“The area’s geology and climate is unique in New Zealand. So it’s not surprising the contain an amazing diversity of specialised native plants and animals such as the Marlborough rock dairy and New Zealand’s only alpine lizard, the black eyed gecko.”

“Forest and Bird’s research report shows that the Kaikoura Ranges meet the high standards required for national park status. The support of the public, the New Zealand Conservation Authority, the Minster and Department of Conservation are needed to progress the park proposal,” Dr McSweeney said.

“It is time that the New Zealand Conservation Authority launched a full consultative investigation similar to the investigation that led to the formation of Kahurangi National Park.”

“The hotch-potch of reserves that make up public conservation land in the Kaikoura Ranges deserves better management, and formal recognition as a national conservation icon. National park status would help achieve that,” he said.

Public meetings about the proposed Kaikoura Ranges national park will be held on: Tuesday 15 July 2003 at 7.30pm at the Memorial Hall, The Esplanade in Kaikoura; Wednesday 16 July 2003 at 7.45pm, Wesley Centre in Blenheim.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Kaikoura Ranges national park proposal covers 82,000 ha of conservation land administered by the Department of Conservation (DoC). This includes the former Clarence Reserve property of 41,000 hectares, which was purchased by the Nature Heritage Fund in 1994 and gazetted as conservation land in 2002.

Forest and Bird seeks an investigation by the New Zealand Conservation Authority under section 8 of the National Parks Act 1980.

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.

A Kaikoura Ranges national park would give dryland landscapes and their specialised rock and scree plant communities and habitats a higher profile and status. It would improve the extent to which national parks represent the original character of New Zealand.

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

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.

The Seaward Kaikoura Range provides the only mainland nesting area for Hutton’s shearwater and the easternmost habitat 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 conservation management and pest control through improved funding.

Forest and Bird’s report “Kaikoura Ranges National Park Proposal” summarises the conservation and recreation values present in the Inland and Seaward Kaikoura Ranges, describes their importance and concludes that they are significant enough to meet the criteria of the National Parks Act 1980. The report is available on www.forest-bird.org.nz

For the park proposal to proceed, the NZ Conservation Authority would need to request the Department of Conservation to undertake a detailed investigation. This process would involve consultation and public submissions before the Authority makes a recommendation to the Minister of Conservation whether a park should be established.

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