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February 2018 Issue
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National parks under the microscope

Many experts want to see the General Policy tackle overcrowding in popular parks. Photo: Andrea Schaffer/Creative Commons

The upcoming review of the General Policy for National Parks is timely. The phenomenal increase in tourist numbers and the associated pressure and strain that has put on everything to do with our parks has caused no small amount of consternation among outdoor enthusiasts.

We’ve invited experts in recreation, tourism, conservation and iwi perspectives to share their thoughts on the big issues facing our parks and how they should be addressed. You can read their opinions on p56.

I am impressed with idea of preserving natural quiet, as advocated by conservationist Craig Potton.

Natural quiet is the ambient sound of things not made by people – the likes of bird calls, the wind blowing through the trees, the tumble of rock fall, a glacier calving into a lake, a running stream. To me, it is the the purest sound of peace and quiet you can find.

Perhaps, if we framed the review around ensuring our national parks are places where, first and foremost, natural quiet can be experienced, all else will fall into place. Conservation, controlling tourism and creating rules around how tourism operators help people experience the wilderness, recreation for trampers, hunters and mountain bikers – it all becomes so much simpler to manage if natural quiet is the guiding principle.

Of course, the challenges facing New Zealand’s national parks as tourism ramps up to 4.9 million visitors a year by 2023 are immense. And there is no one simple solution for how they should be managed.

We’ll be keeping a keen eye on how the review progresses. In the meantime, what do you want from our national parks? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you.

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