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DOC scraps plan to expand Lake Ianthe campsite

The Department of Conservation has scrapped plans to expand its campsite at Lake Ianthe/Matahi, in Westland after strong objections from conservation groups and locals.

The picturesque lake on State highway 6 north of Franz Josef Glacier, is a popular stop-over point for tourists and DOC had planned to extend the campsite to provide additional overnight parking and camping space.

It was also planning to build flushing toilets and a new shelter. The project would have involved clearing an area of native bush.

However, at this month's meeting of the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board, DOC manager Joy Comrie said the expansion would not now go ahead.

The decision followed strong objections to the campsite plan from Forest and Bird and Federated Mountain Clubs, and according to board chairman Dr Ketih Morfett, also from the local community.

"Just about everyone I spoke to about this said it should be day-use only at Lake Ianthe," he said.

"You go down there to launch a boat at 8.30 and it's full. The campervans make it hard to use the boat ramp ... you go down there a bit later and they've all taken off to dodge the ranger."

Both the board and DOC have had submissions from conservation groups saying the proposal to extend the small camping area further into the Lake Ianthe Scenic Reserve would in fact break the law.

The Conservation Act allows the use of natural and historic resources for tourism as long as that use is not inconsistent with their conservation, according to West Coast Forest and Bird chairwoman Kathy Gilbert.

"Destruction of the natural bush that would be required for this proposal is inconsistent (with that clause) as it would destroy the very reason that this piece of land is scenic reserve," Ms Gilbert wrote.

Destroying native forest to provide a camping ground would also flout the Reserves Act, she said.

"It can't be argued that amenities are needed at Lake Ianthe when there are DOC campsites already at Lake Mapourika, Gillespies Beach, Lake Kaniere and Lake Mahinapua and private campsites both north and south of Lake Ianthe -- one of them just a few kilometres away."

The process used by DOC to sound out public opinion had been poorly handled, Ms Gilbert said.

"We became aware of the proposal only because one of our members went fishing at Lake Ianthe and spotted a small A4 hand-drawn poster on a noticeboard there."

Many local people used Lake Ianthe for swimming and fishing and wanted the lake to have day-use facilities only, she said.

"We would request that DOC follow a much more rigorous process in future when it wants to develop an area," Ms Gilbert said.

Federated Mountain Clubs lodged a similar protest.

"We are surprised by DOC's proposal to clear vegetation including hardwoord trees to extend visitor facilities in the Lake Ianthe Scenic Reserve ... this is not in accordance with the statutory instruments the Department is charged with administering."

DOC's West Coast operations director Mark Davies agreed the proposed scale of the campsite at Lake Ianthe was not consistent with the desire to protect natural values and all work on the plan had stopped.


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