The Department of Conservation has announced this morning that the process of amending the West Coast Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) is being halted, and that recent changes to the Paparoa National Park Management Plan are invalid and will be scrapped.
Both Forest & Bird and FMC challenged the legality of the process. A National Park Management Plan needs to be consistent with the CMS, not the other way round. FMC is not opposed to environmentally appropriate, well managed commercial mountain biking and sporting events in the Paparoa National Park. The amendments to the Paparoa NP Management Plan made in 2017 are not consistent with the West Coast CMS and are thus illegal.
The statement issued by DOC is reported here:
The Department of Conservation (the Department) regrets to inform you that the CMS amendment process has been halted. This decision has been made after stakeholders raised concerns that the correct legal process was not being followed. The Department was amending the CMS to make it consistent with the Paparoa National Park Management Plan 2017 (the Plan) i.e. some Plan provisions derogated from the CMS. However, closer legal inspection has revealed the CMS must be reviewed first to allow for certain activities.
Judicial proceedings will be lodged with the High Court to quash certain provisions in the Plan. The Department is recommending to the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) that they agree to support the judicial proceedings. If the NZCA do agree, a joint consent memorandum is signed, and the High Court then decides on the application to quash the relevant Plan provisions.
As a result, when the Paparoa Track opens in December:
- Recreational mountain biking will be able to occur because mountain biking will not be an offence (even though the CMS does not expressly provide for it).
- Concessions for commercial mountain biking cannot be granted as they would be inconsistent with the CMS.
- Concessions for commercial guided walking can be granted, but with a maximum group size of 6 people including the guide.
- Concessions for sporting and other competitive events cannot be granted as they would be inconsistent with the CMS and the Plan.
- Concessions for aircraft landings in the Park cannot be granted as they would be inconsistent with the CMS. This may exclude landings specifically for the Pike River Families.
- Concessions for aircraft landings outside the Park can be granted consistent with the CMS.
On completion of the legal proceedings the Department will take submissions into account and develop a process to partially review the CMS. The Department acknowledges the impact this decision may have on individuals, local communities and businesses, but we need to ensure any changes to the CMS are legally robust.
FMC is looking forward to engaging with DOC and the wider outdoor community during the West Coast CMS review process.
Photo at top: The new Paparoa Track snakes its way along the tops north of Croesus Knob. (c) D Hegg