Private road to glaciers an 'affront' to conservation

18:04, Feb 19 2013

Proposed new private roads up to retreating Franz Josef and Fox glaciers have sparked strong opposition from a West Coast conservation group.

Submissions close this afternoon on the Department of Conservation's partial review of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park management plan.

It included plans to build gravel roads beyond the glaciers' current car parks to near their terminal faces for tourist operators to use so people of all ages and abilities could reach the sites. Public vehicles and cycles would be banned from using the new routes.

"When the plan was approved in 2001, the dramatic rate of glacier retreat and consequent problems with walking on the glaciers were not anticipated," DOC's review document said.

"Since 2008, both glaciers have been retreating and the walks from the car parks along the valleys to the glaciers' terminal faces are getting longer. It is now a 3 kilometre walk from the car park to the Franz Josef terminal face and about 1.5km to the Fox Glacier face."

The review also proposed to change where aircraft could land on the glaciers and increase flights and the number of people guided on them from 300 to 450.


But West Coast Environment Network planned to lodge its opposition to the review yesterday, spokeswoman Lynley Hargreaves said.

"The Government has given DOC a clear signal to support making money off conservation land but this is taking things too far.

"Putting a new private road in a national park is an affront to the very ethos of our publicly owned conservation land."

There had been a substantial increase in flights despite DOC's own guidelines stating aircraft annoyance thresholds had been exceeded, she said.

Hargreaves blamed pressure from tourism operators for the new roads, saying the distance to walk to the glaciers' face had changed little in the past decade.

Guided glacier trips were stopped last year because it had become too unsafe to walk on to the glacier from the valley route.

The Press