Chopper firm wants to fly in park
Taranaki's top-rated tourism venture is pushing for changes to aircraft-landing restrictions in Egmont National Park.
Heliview owners Jolanda and Richard Foale said they hoped to partner up with Taranaki Iwi Trust, the Conservation Department and Mt Taranaki Guided Tours to land trampers in the Pouakai Ranges using its helicopter.
The Egmont National Park Management Plan prohibits aircraft from landing aircraft anywhere in the park other than for management purposes.
With the the plan up for review in the coming months, now was the best time to make the changes, she said.
"We believe the time is right."
Mrs Foale said they had discussed the venture with all three parties.
Taranaki DOC manager Jason Roxburgh said Heliview, located at Port Taranaki, had informally asked if it was possible to establish helicopter landing sites in Egmont National Park.
"We are looking into it," Mr Roxburgh said.
Because no formal application had been lodged, DOC was not in a position to comment further, he said.
Taranaki Iwi Trust general manager Liana Poutu said it was also unable to comment until a formal application had been submitted.
"We have been engaging with them but not on any specific proposal," Ms Poutu said.
Mr Roxburgh said the main reason for the aircraft landing ban was to protect the park's cultural, natural, and recreational values, including "natural quiet".
Heliview has just replaced its old two-blade helicopter with a much quieter six-blade helicopter.
Last week Heliview was named fourth in the AA Travel 101 Must- Do s for Kiwis list.
Ms Foale said Heliview was frequently asked if it offered flights to the top of the Pouakai Ranges.
The requests usually came from disabled tourists and visitors who were only in the region for a limited time, she said.
"They would love to see and experience more of Mt Taranaki but they don't get the chance to do the climb.
"We don't want to land on the mountain, that's never been our intention."
Heliview wanted a designated landing space at Pouakai Hut and The Mountain House, Mr Foale said.
Experienced climber and Mt Taranaki Guided Tours operator Ian McAlpine was fully supportive of the idea.
"We think it's the right time to have a look at it," Mr McAlpine said.
"I'm excited about it if it can go ahead."
The attraction would help boost tourism in the region, he said.
"It's certainly something that would attract people to come to Taranaki."
Mr McAlpine said one or two landing sites in the national park would not spoil the tranquility because helicopters already flew overhead every now and then.
Mr Foale said all parties involved could benefit economically from the venture.
Guided tours with iwi representatives could provide customers with more detail and history about Mt Taranaki.
"I think that would be very attractive to the high-end tourism," Mr Foal said.
DOC would also benefit through concessions, he said.
"We've gone out there and chosen to operate the quietest helicopter there is so we can minimise the impact on the pristine asset that is our national park."
Taranaki Daily News