Some 40 years ago the Save Manapouri campaign began with a meeting in Te Anau. Protecting Lake Manapouri from being raised and operated as a hydro lake and the lake shore forest inundated involved the biggest public mobilisation for the environment New Zealand had ever seen.
Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau together with the rest of Fiordland National Park, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, Aspiring, Westland/Tai Poutini National Parks and conservation land in between are now all part of the Te Wāhi Pounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. In 1991 as a result of a joint nomination by the New Zealand Government and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu UNESCO recognised the landscapes, glaciated landforms and evolutionary history, and plants and wildlife of the South West as having outstanding universal value. It is one of only 188 sites worldwide whose natural values UNESCO has recognised in this way.
We need a similar public mobilisation in 2012 to protect the South West World Heritage Area from Riverstone Holdings Ltd logging thousands of beech trees in Snowdon Forest for its proposed monorail, and from Milford Dart Ltd mining Fiordland National Park to construct its proposed Hollyford tunnel and a huge waste rock stack beside the Hollyford River.
The inaugural meeting of the Save Fiordland Society in a lakefront hotel at Te Anau on Sunday 15 July was an encouraging step towards such a mobilisation. A wide range of people came – tourism operators, outdoor enthusiasts, local business people, conservationists and Southland residents. Those attending understood that sustainable tourism is about people experiencing and enjoying nature first hand, staying a while rather than speeding through. Eminent botanist Sir Alan Mark who was a leading voice in the campaign to save Manapouri is patron of the Save Fiordland Society.
With most lowland streams not fit for fishing or swimming, many lowland lakes heavily polluted and our “clean and green” image is entirely mythical in relation to lowland water quality. We rely on the vast and wild landscapes of Fiordland National Park and South West New Zealand to maintain any integrity for our 100% Pure brand and our billion dollar marketing brand.
That the Department of Conservation called for formal submissions and had public hearings on the on the monorail and tunnel proposals shows just how much the Department has lost its way in putting big business ahead of conservation.
DoC should have told the applicants long ago that the monorail and the tunnel are totally at odds with national park and Wold Heritage values, with the Fiordland National Park Management Plan, Southland conservation management strategy, general policy, and national parks policy and the applicants should not waste their, the department’s and the public’s time promoting such destructive proposals.
The fact that DoC did not do this and that the Department appears increasingly captured by large corporates and backroom decision making, means many more people need to speak up for Fiordland.
In the last two years Ministerial and Departmental decisions have :
- privatised conservation land on the Craigieburn Range to allow Russian owned PSA Ltd to develop an alpine tourism resort and ski area. Minister of Conservation, Kate Wilkinson’s decision to exclude from Craigieburn Conservation Park, land which the Nature Heritage Fund bought to include in the park meant this land was able to be freeholded with no public input.
- allowed overseas Oceana Gold Ltd to destroy more than 235 ha. of Victoria Conservation Park with its open cast gold mine when a previous Minister of Conservation (Sandra Lee) rejected a more modest application in 2001 as being inconsistent with the Conservation Act. There was no public input to DoC’s decision here either.
The Minister’s forthcoming decisions on the Milford Link tunnel and the proposed monorail will be a major test of whether the Minister and the Department recognise that they have statutory responsibilities under the National Parks and Conservation Acts to preserve and protect nature, or whether this is to be jettisoned in favour of having the conservation estate open for business, any business regardless of its impacts.
The Save Fiordland Society, Forest and Bird, FMC and many others are standing up for Fiordland and for World Heritage. The Minister needs to as well. Hopefully history will repeat and like the Save Manapouri campaign, this campaign will be successful.