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November 2013 Issue
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Pigeon Post, November 2013

Department of Recreation

The September editorial raised some very important questions and asked for thoughts and ideas.

Having run a conservation-based guided tramping business for more than 20 years and worked on major conservation projects, we are currently deeply disturbed at the direction recreation and conservation is headed in this country.

There is not space here to address the many issues involved but in a nutshell we are being conned by both the popular media and the government. We are not world leaders in conservation as most New Zealanders think we are – in fact, our record is abysmal.

The only reason we have national parks is because the land they’re on is useless for anything else. Our obsession with huts and tracks has many discerning foreign visitors starting to question our nation’s so called ‘100% Pure’ image. It appears as though we want it both ways. Whilst on one hand we are told by DOC our help is needed to solve our conservation woes, on the other hand millions of dollars are spent annually on luxury huts, new tracks, mountain bike trails and other ridiculous infrastructure on the conservation estate.

We are told this is an investment in our future whilst at the same time we lead the world in endangered species.

We don’t profess to have all the answers, but for a start it would be a help if New Zealanders stopped believing their own propaganda and took a cold hard look at the reality. The money and the expertise is available. All that is needed is a change of attitude and there is very little sign of that.

We no longer have a Department of Conservation. We have a Department of Recreation with a dwindling conservation wing. It should be the other way around.

– Bill Rooke and Maryann Ewers, Bush and Beyond Guided Walks

Dam lies

I read with considerable indignation the editorial in the October issue detailing ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’. ‘

Little good can be said for the good old Kiwi attitude of somebody else can pay.

My experience of DOC is of a few dedicated individuals doing sterling work in conservation, and lots of others doing sterling work pushing papers and warming seats.

Your editorial, sniffingly dismissing $20m from Fonterra for Conservation, slips into the category of somebody else can pay!

Farmers are trampers and farmers are also conservationists. To dismiss those as ruinous farming practitioners simply does not square with the facts.

Mr Hall needs to get out and see for himself what is being achieved with effluent control on New Zealand dairy farms. To dismiss the Ruataniwha irrigation scheme, central to Mr Hall’s editorial as a potential contributor to river pollution, again does not square with the facts. Under modern rules no dairy farm would get half way towards approval from the authorities to operate without a robust, approved and effective effluent disposal plan.

Again, to classify dairying in the modern era as unmitigated polluters defies the facts. Palmerston North City shoves it’s sewerage into the Manawatu River after some basic treatment, as do all the little towns up and down the Manawatu. My own home town of Wanganui saw fit to shove two days’ worth of hydrogen sulphide into the ocean a few months back.

Imagine for a moment what would happen to any dairy farmer trying that same stunt.

Please attempt some rational comments in such a commendable publication before continuing to spread such untruths.

– Tony Rogers, Wanganui.

Going off track

Further to the article ‘Best laid plans’ (October, 2013) in which the author goes off track in Tongariro National Park, it is worth noting that by going off track it is easy to do firsts in New Zealand and be the first of the human race ever to stand in particular places.

In most areas you are likely to do a first just by walking a few metres off the track for a pee and then re-joining it.

This is something you can’t do in the British Isles for instance, where I originated, and where due to its long history of human occupation and large population, nearly every square metre is likely to have been trodden on by someone at some time.

Of course, we are not the only species on earth and as a species, possums, and other creatures, unfortunately beat us hands down as explorers of the bush. Although they do help us in our off track travel by clearing some of the undergrowth that would otherwise impede us.

– Stephen Conn, Nelson  

Ghost Road disruption

In response to your correspondents who wrote the letters ‘Ghost Road is for Everyone’ and ‘Further Defense of Ghost Road’ (May, 2013), our farming family visited our mates on the lower reaches of the Mokihinui River last March, savouring our victory in stopping an inappropriate dam proposal at this location two years ago.

Keen trampers and cyclists, we were not pleased to see what the Mokihinui Lyell Backcountry Trust has done to our public conservation lands. The Old Ghost Road pushed through the sensitive Mokihinui Forks Ecological Area and Radiant Range Conservation Area with liberally applied sticks of gelignite or rock solvent as MLBT track workers call it.

Irresponsible use of gelignite has resulted in our historic old pack track between Welcome Creek and Mokihinui Forks being closed for months due to rockfall (and the danger of further rock fall killing someone).

We support the concerns raised by former Federated Mountain Clubs executive member Pete Lusk expressed in his Comment article published in the March issue and are very annoyed about the closure of this historic pack track.

And let us not forget  the 500-year-old noble, healthy kahikatea which stood at Mokihinui Forks for so many years, through earthquakes, floods and wild winds, but was chopped down unnecessarily earlier this year to make way for an enlarged hut at the site.

We would like to see any further work on the Old Ghost Road halted (other than MLBT repairing the damage it has done to the historic pack track) while an independent audit is done of the trust and the flawed implementation of the Old Ghost Road which has caused adverse environmental impacts.

– Linda Grammer and family, Whangarei