The National Parks Act 1980 aims to preserve our national parks in perpetuity for their intrinsic worth and for the benefit use and enjoyment of the public.

View the full National Parks Act 1980 on the New Zealand Legislation website.

The New Zealand national parks system aims to preserve in perpetuity for their intrinsic worth and for the benefit use and enjoyment of the public those parts of the country that "contain scenery of such distinctive quality, ecological systems, or natural features so beautiful, unique, or scientifically important that their preservation is in the national interest".

What do national parks protect?

The first ten national parks established in New Zealand protected some of the most scenically spectacular parts of the country. There is a strong emphasis in these first parks on mountain scenery.

While beautiful, these national parks are not representative of the range of New Zealand ecosystems, particularly lowland. Therefore, since the 1980s, the emphasis has been on developing a more representative national park system. Hence the establishment of Whanganui (includes a major river system), Paparoa (includes lowland forest and geological features) and Kahurangi (includes a wide diversity of landforms and geology) national parks.

Why have an Act?

In recognition of the value to New Zealanders of national parks, the National Parks Act affords these areas greater protection than the other Acts. National park status can only be revoked by an Act of Parliament.

Within national parks the Act requires a balance to be struck between the dual requirements of "preservation in perpetuity" and "public access and enjoyment". However, greater emphasis is given by the Act to preservation aspects. Specially protected areas can be established that allow partial or complete exclusion of the public from sensitive areas.

The National Parks Act provides for the continuance of existing national parks, the creation of new parks, and the management of all national parks. The Act consolidates and amends the previous law relating to national parks.

What are the main parts of the Act?

Part I: deals with the principles to be applied in national parks. These include: preservation in their natural state; preservation of native plants and animals and removal of introduced ones, as far as possible; preservation of archaeological and historical sites and objects; maintenance of soil, water and forest conservation values; freedom of access to the public, as far as possible. Part I also deals with new parks, additions to parks, excluding land from parks, and establishing wilderness areas.

Part II: deals with the functions of the New Zealand Conservation Authority and requires the Minister to consult with the Authority in respect of access and notice made under the Crown Minerals Act 1991.

Part III: deals with the functions of Conservation Boards.

Part IV: deals with administration issues.

Part V: deals with the control and management of national parks. Covers aspects such as the preparation of conservation management strategies and plans and the granting of concessions.

Part VA: deals with the control of dogs in national parks. This includes aspects such as dog permits and the powers of rangers with respect to dogs.

Part VI: deals with the financial provisions.

Part VII: covers offences under the Act.

Part VIII: covers a number of miscellaneous provisions such as mining, certificates of title and provisions relating to former authorities and boards.

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