Park landings 'a slippery slope'
A call to loosen aircraft landing restrictions in Egmont National Park has been supported by some and lambasted by others.
Yesterday it was revealed that the region's top rated tourist operation, Heliview, was in discussions with Mt Taranaki stakeholders to allow helicopters to land trampers on the Pouakai Range and near The Mountain House.
Currently aircraft are banned from landing anywhere in Egmont National Park other than for management purposes as outlined in the Egmont National Park Management Plan.
This was to protect the park's cultural, natural, and recreational values, including "natural quiet".
Federated Mountain Clubs president Robin McNeill told the Daily News yesterday that allowing aircraft to land in national parks was a "slippery slope".
Allowing one scenic flight business to land in the park would open the floodgates to other operators, he said.
"We have to safeguard what is some of the most precious land we have in New Zealand," Mr McNeill said.
Heliview owner Jolanda Foale said disabled tourists and visitors who were in the region for a limited time frequently inquired about flights to the top of the Pouakai Range.
Mr McNeill said though he sympathised with disabled people, some places were simply not set up for them. Limited time, on the other hand, was no excuse to be flown into a national park.
"If it's not important enough to put the time in, then how important is it for them to go there?" he said.
Mrs Foale said with the park management plan up for review in the coming months, now was the best time to make the changes as it would not be reviewed for another 10 years.
Mt Egmont Alpine Club life member and vice-president Jim Finer said he supported the suggestion to let aircraft land in the park so long as it was managed appropriately. "I think it's not a bad idea for some limited access but you certainly don't want to be ruining the wilderness experience for others," he said.
Many trampers used helicopters to fly into remote areas these days.
Mr Finer had employed the services of a helicopter on numerous tramping trips.
"Most of our alpine members to some degree would have used helicopters to access more difficult areas."
Venture Taranaki visitor industry manager Paul Stancliffe said the fly-in concept worked well in other parts of New Zealand and he could not understand why Egmont National Park still had restrictions.
Aircraft landing rights in New Zealand's national parks was brought to the fore last year when the number of aircraft landing in Fiordland National Park caused backlash from trampers who walked rather than flew in.
Last year, when Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson announced a cap of 9000 landings a year would be increased to 12,000, trampers and mountain climbers vented their frustration.
Federated Mountain Clubs past-president Richard Davies said at the time that the decision would result in increased noise levels in a place visited for its natural beauty and remoteness.
Taranaki Daily News