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August 2016 Issue
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Learn from mistakes

My number one mistake is leaving my walking poles behind.

I think it fair to say we’ve all made a few tramping mistakes in our time (‘Tramping mistakes to avoid’).

I’ve left my camera at home while on a work trip, had my boots freeze overnight, ruined a pair of boots by drying them too close to the hut fire, left countless items behind, including walking poles (twice). I once thought I was a super tramper and deliberately left the trail, opting for the obvious shortcut through the bush. It turned out to be the longest shortcut of my life.

But as with many things, it’s OK to make mistakes. It’s how we learn.

Speaking of mistakes, DOC has made a real mishmash of its handling of the Ngapunatoru Ice Plateau heli-landings saga.

The Federated Mountain Club’s Official Information Act request has revealed how DOC ran closed-door meetings with the very concessionaires who wanted to increase tourist flights into remote national park settings. Groups and individuals representing recreation interests were, bizarrely, shut-out. The result of such one-sided, echo-chamber discussions was an increase in helicopter landings on the Ngapunatoru Ice Plateau to 80 each day – an unconscionable breach of the Fiordland National Park Management Plan which allows for just 10 landings.

No one wants to stop DOC from talking to concessionaires and to gain financially from any agreements it reaches. But surely all stakeholders should be invited to the table to ensure sustainable, long-lasting concessions that leave little to no ill-will among those groups and individuals affected. To do otherwise alienates people and creates unnecessary tension.

DOC would have been better to hold open discussions on the heli-landings with a goal of settling the issue in 2017, when a new Fiordland National Park Management Plan is due.

That is proper process.

But now DOC faces calls by the FMC for the ombudsman to investigate its statutory planning department to ensure it is ‘fit for purpose’. Privately, I’ve heard calls for court action should the ombudsman not take action.

This serves to demonstrate just how badly DOC has upset a key constituency; a group that 99 times out of 100 would go in to bat for it. Such goodwill is hard to come by, but easy to destroy.

DOC has made a mistake here, let’s hope it learns from it.