To: Hon Maggie Barry, Minister of Conservation
Date: 28 June 2017
Kahurangi National Park proposed addition – Mokihinui river catchment
The NZCA discussed the proposed addition of the Mokihinui river catchment area to Kahurangi National Park at its June 2017 meeting. This initiative has had a long gestation and, given its scale and earlier history as a potential hydro dam site, has been comprehensively investigated by the Authority and Department of Conservation.
In July 2012, the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board and Buller Conservation Group Inc. requested the NZCA initiate a Section 8 investigation into the suitability of adding the Mokihinui River catchment to the Kahurangi National Park. In June 2015, after receiving legal advice from the Department that a Section 7 investigation would be appropriate, the NZCA requested the Department undertake such an analysis of the Mokihinui catchment (excluding the riverbed, which is under LINZ’s administration). The Department’s report was received at the October 2015 meeting. Arising from that report, the NZCA sought further information from the Department on four matters pertinent to the land meeting national park criteria.
The Department’s response in May 2016 resolved the questions raised by the NZCA, but the whole project was then put on hold (with the Authority’s endorsement) to allow planning and other resources (including those of Ngai Tahu) to be devoted to completing the rapid (i.e. 12 month) review of the Paparoa National Park Management Plan.
The area within the whole Mokihinui catchment area, some 64,416 hectares (as shown on the map attached in the agenda paper), is almost entirely public conservation land and is currently categorised as stewardship land and ecological area. The biodiversity values of these areas are high due to species abundance and local endemic patterns; and are vital for maintaining ecological and evolutionary processes. The landscapes are varied, beautiful and nationally distinct.
As part of the Section 7 process the NZCA (including myself) consulted on the proposal with the Buller District Council, Ngati Waewae, Ngai Tahu, and the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board. The Council and Conservation Board support the proposed addition, but Ngai Tahu are opposed to any further land being added to national parks. Ngati Waewae, the local hapu indicated they did not oppose the addition per se. At our 2.5 hour consultation meeting with Ngati Tahu and Ngati Waewae we were not able to identify any specific reason why the land should not be given national park status.
Subsequent to the meeting in Hokitika, Ngai Tahu wrote to the NZCA re-stating their general opposition to national park additions, including the Mokihinui catchment area. I spoke to Arihia Bennett, CE of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, on the day of the NZCA’s meeting to point out their concerns related to National Park legislation and general policy, rather than to the land in this specific case, and that these matters would be better addressed through other avenues. Arihia understood our viewpoint and indicated Ngai Tahu would adopt a pragmatic view if we resolved to add the land. She also appreciated the NZCA’s intention to recommend that the Paparoa National Park Plan processes for iwi and hapu input be adopted; ask the incoming Authority to review the 2005 General Policy for National Parks; and request the Department expedite the Kahurangi National Park review. I also accepted her invitation to meet with herself and members of TRONT to further discuss the matter of land recategorisation, especially to national park status.
After weighing up Ngai Tahu’s and other key stakeholder views, the NZCA agreed that the proposed land addition clearly met all of the requirements in the General Policy for National Parks and adopted the resolution as set out in Attachment 1. Accordingly, we recommend to you, as Minister of Conservation, that you recommend to the Governor-General that the area of land (referred to in the attached document as the Mokihinui catchment area) be added to the Kahurangi National Park under section 7 of the National Parks Act 1980.
While not a direct consideration of a Section 7 investigation, the Authority is cognisant that the expansion of Kahurangi National Park as recommended will provide new economic opportunities for the Buller District and offers the potential for three world class walking and bike trails – Heaphy Track, Old Ghost Road and Paparoa Track – to be offered as a package for visitors to the West Coast. As well there are other opportunities to provide short walks and outstanding visitor experiences especially along the Mokihinui River.
Dr Warren Parker