Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


Registrations have opened for the 50th Anniversary of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Register now for a fun weekend.

Date:  22 January 2010

Fifty years ago the threat to add the glaciers into Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park  galvanised West Coasters into action to establish their very own national park. In 1958, the Director-General of Lands proposed that Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park be extended to include the scenic reserves containing Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. “After all”, he reasoned, “it is not that hard to cross from the Mt Cook area to Westland by air, so the Westland glaciers might as well be controlled from Canterbury.”

Once this statement appeared in the papers, West Coasters wrote strongly worded letters to the National Parks Authority and the newspapers, arguing that if the glacier region was to be part of any national park, there should be a Westland National Park.

After two years of lobbying by South Westland residents and community organisations from Greymouth to Fox Glacier, Westland National Park was proclaimed on 29 March 1960.

Okarito and Waikukupa State Forests became part of the park later, preserving the extensive lowland podocarp forests, and sheltering the critically endangered Okarito brown kiwi  or rowi - our rarest kiwi.

These additions made Westland Tai Poutini National Park exceptional among New Zealand’s national parks, extending from sea level, through temperate rainforests to the glacier laden peaks of our highest mountains.

The area encompassed by the National Park has been the scene of some dramatic moments in New Zealand mountaineering history. Just prior to his ascent of Mt Everest, Edmund Hillary climbed the Maximilian Ridge of Mt Elie de Beaumont from the Whataroa Valley with Ed Cotter, Earle Riddiford and George Lowe – a route that is so remote that it did not see another ascent for 30 years.

In 1948, the Cook River Valley was the scene of the last great pre-helicopter evacuation in the history of New Zealand search and rescue. During an ascent of Mt La Perouse, climber Ruth Adams fell, breaking her leg and losing consciousness. She was then carried by a team of stretcher bearers 20km down the trackless valley to safety. To supply the search teams with sustenance, food drops of pound cake and louise slice were arranged by the company owned by Ruth’s well-known relative Ernest Adams.

50 years have now gone by since the establishment of Westland Tai Poutini National Park. The Park has become hugely important, not just as a source of iconic postcard images, or even as simply a beautiful place in which to tramp, kayak or climb, but as the foundation of the Westland region’s economic wellbeing. From the earliest days of fledgling tourist businesses in small communities, to the thriving little townships of today, people have created livelihoods for themselves within this challenging but beautiful area. The National Park and its iconic Glaciers continue to be the main attraction on the West Coast, supporting ongoing opportunities for the regions promotion and new business ventures.

To celebrate the Park’s history and its importance to the region a 50th anniversary event is planned to take place on March 26, 27 and 28 this year.

Registrations for the Westland Tai Poutini National Park 50th Anniversary celebrations open on Monday 25 January. Registrations will close on Thursday 25 February, but early bird registrations received by Wednesday 10 February will go into the draw to win a special Westland Tai Poutini National Park prize. There are limited places available for some of the events, and there has already been a lot of interest in the weekend, so get in early.

The weekend will be great fun: three days of stories of the past, tales of exploration and adventure, historic movies, displays, activities and a great chance to catch up with the people who have helped make the park an outstanding destination for all New Zealanders and millions of tourists, while protecting the priceless natural features of this iconic area for future generations to enjoy.

During the weekend attendees can choose to take advantage of discounted glacier walks, kayaking adventures, boat trips, guided bush walks, and scenic flights – all being provided by local tourist operators – who are right behind the event.   Coasters can rightly be proud that 50 odd years ago they had the vision to protect what was theirs and call for their own National Park – keeping the scenic and economic assets of the coast in their hands.

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