Gondola, glacier parking proposed in park plan

The draft Westland National Park plan is out for submissions.

It proposes everything from a park and ride facility, allowing vehicles closer to the retreating glaciers, and possibly a gondola.

The Department of Conservation is trying to work out the best way to deal with two retreating glaciers.

The wider glacier area hosts more than one million visitors per year, with an extra 290,000 visitors expected in the next five years.

With car parking, it will look at charging, time limits, offsite car parks, park and ride and seasonal parking at icon sites.

It is also looking at allowing vehicles to transport people from the existing glacier car parks at Franz Josef and Fox Glacier to a place in the glacier valleys that provides a reasonably close view of the glacier terminal.

This would only happen if there was no safe walking access, or a place that provided a reasonably close view of the glacier terminal.

Dogs are not allowed in national parks, however, the plan is asking for feedback on allowing recreational dog walking at the Tatare Tunnels, Callery Gorge Walk, Canavan's Knob Walk and the Neils Creek Track.

DOC would also look longer term at removing about five private baches adjoining the Okarito Lagoon, or else ensuring public use of them.

The plan also looks at aircraft landings - about 10% of people who visit the park do a scenic snow landing or a guided glacier heli-hike.

"The demand for aircraft landings is expected to remain high. This plan seeks to manage the number and location of aircraft landings on the glaciers to retain an appropriate visitor experience."

The plan has no increase in the number of landings at the Fox and Franz landing zones - it remains at 25 per day for
heli-hiking, 60 per day for glacier guiding and six per day for other recreational purposes. The size of the landing zones have increased.

It would review aircraft activity, tranquillity levels and visitor experience and implement any changes to aircraft landings as necessary, from year four to eight.
It is also looking at whether to allow an amenities area for the proposed Franz gondola.

Skyline Enterprises "does not intend to seek approval for a cafeteria or restaurant as part of this proposal, as it recognises the importance of maintaining and enhancing the hospitality industry within Franz Josef/Waiau township and maintaining a minimalist approach to buildings and infrastructure as part of any future gondola proposal".

The amenities area could facilitate other types of recreational and public amenities and related services.

A gondola could provide a "quiet, easy and safe alternative for a wide range of visitors to view, access and be educated about the glaciers".

By year five, DOC would have reviewed the pack-out approach for human waste from alpine areas.

It would seek a bylaw requiring visitors to remove all human waste from alpine areas generated where it cannot go into a waste receptacle.

DOC would seek to add land and waters to the park and see Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage area status for areas not currently included, added.

It would grant concessions for the removal of sand and shingle for river or coastal protection works.

The plan supports the erection of cultural markers such as pou whenua by Makaawhio and Ngai Tahu.

It would work with iwi to showcase mana whenua history.

Other ideas out for submissions:

  • Relocate the Cape Defiance hut from the former Westland Tai Poutini National Park visitor centre to a location where it will be accessible. Consider options for the historic Tatare Aqueduct and track.
  • Karangarua - proposes granting concessions for commercial powered aircraft landings
  • Establish a goat eradication plan.
  • Initiate the restoration of two freshwater ecosystems in the park in partnership with Makaawhio and Ngai Tahu, and conservation partners.
  • Work with relevant local authorities and Makaawhio and Ngai Tahu to develop a bylaw to prohibit the spreading of deceased person's ashes within the lands and water of the park.

Written submissions are due by November 9.
The full report is on www.greystar.co.nz

 - by Laura Mills

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