The review process for the Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini national park management plans has been put on hold.
DOC announced the decision on February 4 – the same day submissions on the draft plans were closed to the public – and follows the Supreme Court’s December 2018 ruling in support of Auckland iwi Ngāi Tai, which sought the right to re-apply for exclusive rights to concessions for commercial activities on Rangitoto and Motutapu islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
Both Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini national parks are within the Ngāi Tahu takiwā (district), and effects of the Ngāi Tai ruling on the management plans are unknown at this stage.
The hold on the review process was requested by Ngāi Tahu.
DOC’s director planning, permissions and land Marie Long said it is not possible to determine how long the plans will be put on hold for, “however, any delay won’t have significant impact because the existing plans can be continued to be used in the meantime”.
Long says until the full implications of the decision are understood, it is not possible to comment on whether Ngāi Tahu will seek exclusive rights to commercial concessions in the national parks.
“It’s clear that DOC needs to be extremely mindful of its responsibilities under the Conservation Act when it comes to our Treaty partner,” she said.
FMC president Peter Wilson said “the longer it’s on hold the better”, as the pause provided a chance for management plan detractors to apply pressure at the right levels of the department.
Major concerns with the draft, such as the proposed number of aircraft concessions, park tranquility and a lack of consultation, have prompted FMC to recommend DOC withdraw and rewrite the management plans.
Wilson said it’s important to work out how DOC got the management plans so wrong, and believes it is feeling the pressure of a united opposition.
“The opposition is unprecedented,” Wilson said. “I’ve been involved in conservation plans for 15 years, and never seen this level of opposition.”
Wilson said DOC needs to provide full transparency in the process and ensure the public is consulted, but he isn’t confident it will happen.
“I like to live in hope,” he said.
DOC said it has not had the chance to review any submissions yet.