Get the National Parks policy review out in the open
Forest & Bird’s Regional Conservation Manager Sue Maturin reflects on the government’s review of the ‘General Policy for National Parks’ (General Policy) amid fears the public is being left out of an opportunity to improve one of our country’s most important conservation policies.
Next to the National Parks Act, the General Policy is the most important document guiding the management of our National Parks. All the management strategies and decisions on concessions must adhere to the General Policy.
Our National Parks protect some of our most stunning wild natural places, mountains, lakes, wildlife, forests and special plants found nowhere else in the world. They are our treasures that past
generations have looked after and which we must look after for future generations.
It is important that the review of the General Policy be done in an open and transparent way with full public consultation and hearings. At the moment it seems as if the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) may be trying to do the review under-the-radar as there has been very little public discussion or consultation. Forest & Bird is concerned that the Chair of the NZCA is quoted in the Wilderness magazine as saying the review doesn’t include any public consultation.
The General Policy is mostly pretty good and doesn’t need a complete overhaul.
However, some policies need to be stronger in order to deal with the biodiversity crisis and pressures from tourism, which have only gotten worse since the General Policy was written.
We need clear and unambiguous policies that bind decision makers, including the Minister of Conservation. They need to ensure our national parks are places where nature thrives and is revered and where people can go to enjoy the natural quiet.
We need the policy to strengthen the philosophy enshrined in the National Parks Act, where nature comes first, where the wellbeing of the park is more important than its development.
We certainly don’t want to see the policies weakened in order to open up national parks for inappropriate development like new roads, private lodges and gondolas. Visitor numbers may need to be capped, instead of providing for more and more visitors to fly into remote places or land on our shrinking glaciers in wilderness areas. People need to be managed for the benefit of the land and nature.