Our Director-General Lou Sanson talks about Ngāi Tahu, the South Australia Government Park Co-management Forum, the Eglinton campervan park and the new Tuatara Encounter at Franz Josef.

Date:  05 October 2017

D-G Direct: An update from Lou.

October is a busy month for conservation campaigns. Conservation Week is 14 – 22 October, and the whole month is dedicated to kiwi with the Save Kiwi Month. If you can, it'd be great to see you out there supporting a conservation event.

Ngāi Tahu and DOC – a 20-year partnership

Lou Sanson and Arihia Bennett.
Lou Sanson and Arihia Bennett, CEO of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

Last Friday was an important day in our history as New Zealanders. Twenty years ago, Ngāi Tahu settled its claim with the Crown.

It was the first big Treaty Settlement and covered significant areas of public conservation land in the South Island.

Twenty years on Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has grown significantly and contributes around $4 million to conservation each year.

Just some of DOC and Ngāi Tahu's joint achievements are:

  • the creation of 8 new marine protected areas
  • the establishment of Rakiura National Park
  • the opening of Aoraki/Mount Cook Visitor Centre
  • eradication of kiore (Pacific or Polynesian rat) and weka from Whenua Hou (now the centre of kākāpō breeding) and some of the Tītī Islands
  • increasing takahē numbers (from 200 birds to 300 birds)
  • the establishment of the Sub-Antarctic Islands World Heritage Area
  • 1,800 kiwi chicks reared and released with Ngāi Tahu Tourism at Rainbow Springs, Rotorua.

I met with Arihia Bennett, CEO of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, on the anniversary of Settlement Day and reaffirmed our commitment to growing a strong partnership that draws on our respective strengths.


South Australia National Parks – Aboriginal Co-management Forum

On 5 – 7 September, Joe Harawira (DOC's Kaihautu Te Putahitanga) and I attended the South Australia Government Park Co-management Forum at Wilpena, Ikara-Flinders National Park.

A total of 80 Aboriginal leaders and parks staff attended the forum where Joe and I shared our New Zealand Crown/Iwi Treaty Partner experiences in co-management.

Joe Harawira (left) and Lou Sanson (right) with Adnyamathana aboriginal leaders.
Joe Harawira (left) and Lou Sanson (right) with Adnyamathana aboriginal leaders at Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park

Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park, Arkaroola.
Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park, Arkaroola

What was remarkable was to see the progress that the South Australia National Parks have made since 2004 when they started this work.

Initiatives included:

  • a parks training programme for Aboriginal people
  • three different models of co-management
  • entry level ranger roles at some parks only for Aboriginal employees
  • the power of story-telling with each park management plan (one of the first documents is the Park Interpretation Plan)
  • a 2-yearly workshop of all tribal leaders and parks managers.

Joe's story-telling was hugely appreciated by participants and we both came away with some excellent ideas for our planned recognition of 30-years working with our Treaty Partner for a similar planned event in New Zealand in 2018.

I was also able to see the spot where my Dad sadly passed away in his tent under the Australian outback stars at Arkaroola in 2003.

DOC's largest campsite in New Zealand

Recently I visited DOC Te Anau's redeveloped $750,000 campervan park at Cascade Creek, Eglinton Valley (completed 3 weeks ago). Last year it hosted 26,000 bednights, made up of mostly international visitors. This year we're anticipating 30,000. At $13 per person the camp will be fully paid off within 3 years. It will then contribute around $200,000 a year towards conserving the incredible biodiversity of Eglinton Valley.

It also plays a critical role in smoothing out visitor flows to Milford Sound, which is set to hit a record high with 800,000 visitors so far this season. Increasingly, our staff all over New Zealand are working on how to ensure tourism contributes to our expanding biodiversity work. This campsite model shows how this can be achieved.

Cascade campervan park, Eglinton Valley.
New Cascade campervan park, Eglinton Valley

Milford Sound visitors.
Milford Sound visitor numbers are up 100% on the September 2016 numbers

Tuatara Encounter at Franz Josef

On Saturday night, I was privileged to open the new West Coast Wildlife Centre's Tuatara Encounter at Franz Josef with owner Richard Benton and representatives of Ngāti Koata and Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio.

Josh Forrest with Ngāti Koata and Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio representatives.
Josh Forrest with Ngāti Koata and Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio representatives

Six tuatara have been transferred from the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust to Franz Josef as part of this wildlife attraction.

The West Coast Wildlife Centre is a key part of our kiwi recovery programme for both rowi and Haast tokoeka.

This season the centre will hatch up to 70 kiwi eggs as part of Operation Nest Egg at Ōkārito prior to the chicks being flown by Air New Zealand to Willowbank and Picton.

Last year 39,000 mainly international tourists visited this wildlife attraction which is a significant public-private partnership for conservation; with all egg hatching managed by staff of the Wildlife Centre.

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