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July 2017 Issue
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Pigeon Post, July 2017

Our letter of the month correspondent wins the a Peak to Plateau Kailash 1⁄4 Zip LS worth $160 from www.peaktoplateau.com.

Letter of the month

E-bikes no conundrum

Anti-rationalists always seek to establish the idea that there are valid counter-arguments for every plain fact, and that to ignore such arguments is to trample roughshod over the very spirit of the political process.

In this light, by positing the ‘E-bike conundrum’ (June, 2017), Wilderness places itself alongside industrialists who appeal to the ‘debate’ over climate change and the deluded hypochondriacs who appeal to the ‘debate’ over vaccines.

But, with respect to e-bikes in national parks, there is no debate. No good can come of encouraging motorised transport to penetrate further into national parks. If Wilderness thinks there is a conundrum, I can only conclude its eye is on the long game and future e-bike gear reviews.

So, hooray for e-bikes, but the conservation estate is for critters, not commuters.

– Jono Poff, email

–  Jono receives a Peak to Plateau Kailash 1⁄4 Zip LS worth $160 from www.peaktoplateau.com. Readers, send your letter to the editor for a chance to win.

Climb your first 3000m peak

Each month I look forward to Wilderness arriving in my letterbox, especially if there are articles on mountain climbing. As such, I was most impressed with Penny Webster’s article ‘Climb your first 3000m peak’ (May, 2017)

I found her explanation of the way to go about it clear and straightforward. I can relate to her way.

Just before turning 50, I decided I wanted to climb Aoraki/Mt Cook. Having always lived on a hill farm and done a reasonable amount of tramping, I joined the Palmerston North Tramping and Mountaineering Club to do their snowcraft courses.

With one of the instructors, I was able to climb Mts Aspiring, Sefton, Earnslaw, Rolleston, Douglas, Minarets, Glacier, Tapuae-o-Uenuku and Lendenfeld. I eventually got up Aoraki/Mt Cook with a guide.

I find the mountains a peaceful place and even though I am now in my mid-sixties, I am not finished with our mountains. I hope Webster’s article inspires others to climb mountains.

Age is no barrier.

– Malcolm Leary, Marton

Keep golfing to the greens

Since soon after I arrived in New Zealand four years ago, lured mainly by its unrivaled nature, I discovered Wilderness. I enjoy its casual, off-key style (true to the Kiwi way) while providing invaluable insights and education in appreciating, while conserving, the wild.

At the risk of sounding like a party pooper, the article ‘Into the rough’ (March, 2017) had a disappointing final twist. The author recalls how his party leader produced a golf club and balls that they all proceeded to tee off from just below the summit of Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku. No second thoughts, apparently, about polluting the environment with the indestructible golf balls or the risk, even if remote, of actually hitting somebody tramping below them.

Just as they had a ball (excuse the pun) with their golfing extravaganza, others find joy in carving their names on trees or hut furniture.

Not cool.

– Juan Blanco, e-mail

Tourism dollars not turnstiles

In the editorial ‘Funding DOC’ (may, 2017), the Federated Mountain Clubs’ opposition to differential charging between Kiwis and tourists was characterised as hinging on our egalitarian beliefs.

While that is certainly a factor, our position is more nuanced. FMC takes a realistic view that the level of society’s funding for conservation will always be a political decision, regardless of where funding is sourced from.

FMC also believes conservation will be best served in the long-term by being clearly understood as a core public service, akin to health, education and social welfare

New Zealand has an efficient tax system that already collects more than $1billion in GST from international guests every year. Let’s start talking about how much more of that should be reapplied to our natural heritage and recreational opportunities.

And let’s keep ticket booths and turnstiles away from our wild places.

– Peter Wilson, President, Federated Mountain Clubs

Timely questions over backcountry management

Kathy Ombler’s article on the visitor pressure on conservation lands (‘The parks, they are a changin’, May 2017) raises timely questions about our backcountry. But we should be wary of apparently easy solutions that are not tailored to New Zealand’s situation.

While some might find the American park model attractive, that only works because large concentrations of visitors justify the cost of the heavy ranger presence. New Zealand has a higher proportion of its land under conservation status, with long borders and many access points, making it prohibitively costly to charge for entry and to exclude non-payers.

Tourists are people spending time away from home, and most tourists are New Zealanders exploring their own country. So while collecting border levies from tourists entering the country is simple, it does not affect domestic tourists who are also fueling demand, and would not impress those business-related visitors who may never get near a park.

Commercial bed taxes fail to collect from visitors using non-commercial accommodation, and GST collected from international tourists could be claimed as a contribution to a lot of government services other than conservation. Setting up funds from such sources also requires allocating it to worthy causes, creating a lolly scramble among lobbyists for pet projects.

There is merit in raising more conservation revenue from charges at point of use, as this collects money from those creating the demand, gives guidance on where spending is needed, and can also help towards demand management.

So DOC’s recently announced fees rises and differential peak prices on Great Walks are sensible steps. As long, that is, as they are followed with a discount scheme for resident taxpayers so as not to choke off local users’ appreciation of the lands under its control, without which it would be shooting itself in the foot.

– Peter Clough, Wellington

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