Mountain clubs go one better

Vance Boyd
Vance Boyd
The Federated Mountain Clubs president says he was aware of a proposal by the Otago Conservation Board to change the status of the Remarkables to a conservation park.

However, FMC pushed ahead with a campaign to have the Remarkables, along with a tract of land totalling about 160,000 hectares, turned into a national park because it believes conservation park status ``isn't high enough''.

FMC president Peter Wilson told the Otago Daily Times yesterday that feedback on the proposal, officially launched last week, had largely been positive from politicians, its members and the public.

The Department of Conservation and the Government had, to date, been ``neutral, or downplaying it'', he said.

``We would certainly encourage them to certainly be mindful of public feedback when it comes to national park proposals and certainly not count things out before they've been properly considered.''

But Otago Conservation Board deputy chairman Vance Boyd told the ODT yesterday the board had put forward a recommendation to the Department of Conservation in June last year for the Remarkables to have conservation park status.

That was expected to be notified for public submission in due course.

Mr Boyd said the ``iconic'' Remarkables was ``at the top of the list'' for the board, and while it was protected as conservation land, ``we thought that it would fit well with a better and higher form of protection''.

``We did look hard at a national park idea, but the problem with that is, as [FMC member] Erik Bradshaw's pointed out, that national parks, the legislation around them is quite restrictive ... they generally suit bits of land that are able to be one parcel of land, rather than perhaps pieces that are making up something else.

``While we did suggest a national park would be a good idea, we probably leaned more towards a conservation park or national reserve.''

The board was a conduit between the public and Doc and made recommendations to the department, which it was independent from but closely aligned to.

Mr Boyd said the board had not, to his knowledge, had any discussions with FMC over its proposal before the campaign was launched.

He said FMC had a ``great vision'' but described its proposal as ``quite aspirational''.

``A lot of the land ... is currently high country land held as high country runs by farmers.

``It's quite a shift to go from that to having that land as part of some sort of conservation area.

``I think we were looking more at what could be achieved in a reasonable time frame and bearing in mind if, for example, the Remarkables was to become conservation park or national reserve, there's nothing to stop additional parcels of land that might become available being added to that in the future.''

But, Mr Wilson said, the proposal was a ``marathon, not a sprint''.

``You've got to have an idea and you've got to have a dream and you have to push for it.

``It could take years to get this through ... we're certainly hopeful that it could be a quick thing, but with national parks it's often about political timing.

``We really want to see international recognition for that area's uniqueness and distinctiveness and conservation park doesn't do that.''

FMC will hold a Queenstown launch of its proposal on June 8 at the Queenstown Memorial Centre before the opening of the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival.


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