Nick Smith has proposed some changes for access to Conservation land…the department is opposed, but then most of them are luddites who want to see all non-native fauna dead so we can all walk in the forest listening to birds tweet.
Mountain bikers, heli-skiers, campers and four-wheel-drive enthusiasts are set to win greater access to our national parks as the Government pushes for more commercial and recreational activities on New Zealand’s 8.6 million-hectare conservation estate.
The Department of Conservation (DOC), which recently announced it will axe 72 jobs in response to budget cuts, is also looking at offering more tourism services on protected land, including campsites and “glamping” – luxury-style camping, according to Treasury documents.
Minister of Conservation Nick Smith told the Sunday Star-Times the department had been conservative and resistant to change, but he wanted to make it more responsive to modern needs.
That meant looking at recreational uses for the conservation estate beyond simply tramping and hunting.
He wanted to see representatives from a wider range of interest groups on conservation boards, because they were “as entitled to a voice as trampers and hunters”.
But conservationists say any change must be managed carefully, to avoid damage to New Zealand’s world-famous reputation for its wilderness and conservation values. There is also concern that commercialising the outdoors is another example of the National Government moving to “extract a dollar” wherever possible.
Actually extracting dollars that can then be plowed back into Conservation coffers is a smart idea. User pays. Works everywhere else, why not for DoC land?
Smith said the mindset that “tramping is all that is allowed” on DOC land was “old-fashioned and out of step with modern times”, as the community’s recreation pursuits change.
He said it took 13 years to persuade the department to allow winter mountain biking on the Heaphy Track, with the three-year trial to finish at the end of the year.
One thing I’d love to see is the removal of the ban on handgun hunting…now that would be cool…and they could set aside particualr areas or perhaps like the US a separate part of a hunting season for it.