Kaikōura and the pyramids: Town fights for UNESCO World Heritage status

Te Korowai o Te Tai Marokura is pushing for the inclusion of the Kaikōura Canyon and mountains as part of a World ...

Te Korowai o Te Tai Marokura is pushing for the inclusion of the Kaikōura Canyon and mountains as part of a World Heritage Site.

Plans are afoot for the Kaikōura landscape to gain the same international status as cultural wonders like the Acropolis, The Great Wall and the pyramids of Giza.

But it could all depend on the election.

Kaikōura marine guardian group Te Korowai o Te Tai Marokura has written to the four largest parties asking them to support the area gaining UNESCO World Heritage status.

Only Labour and National responded, with Labour firmly in favour and National firmly against the proposal, Te Korowai chairman Larnce Wichman said.

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"The area meets more criteria than other World Heritage sites around the world. It would give us a really important status and let the world know the value that Kaikōura has," he said.

Kaikōura is known as a whale-watching destination.

Kaikōura is known as a whale-watching destination.

"We believe Kaikōura, even though there's been some recovery since the earthquake, needs something to really invigorate the whole area again.

"There's a lot of information out there saying Kaikōura is doomed, so this would give the whole community a big lift to know it's being included and being considered."

World Heritage sites, which can be either natural or cultural, are recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The Kaikōura Peninsula, with the ranges in the background.

The Kaikōura Peninsula, with the ranges in the background.

For a site to be included on the heritage list, countries have to create a tentative list of sites which are then put into a nomination file for the World Heritage Committee to consider.

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Wichman said recognition of the Kaikōura Canyon and mountains through the World Heritage list would help the town recover from the earthquake and boost tourism.

Labour conservation spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta said the party was committed to working alongside communities to ensure the recognition of biological diversity and cultural heritage.

"Labour in Government will progress the consideration of Kaikōura to receive World Heritage status to protect the unique coastal and marine environment," she said.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said recovery from the Kaikōura earthquake was a priority for the Government.

"World Heritage status could be considered at some stage down the line but right now the priority for the area is to ensure the wellbeing and livelihood of the people of Kaikōura," she said.

Barry said the Government was not considering a revision of its current tentative list, which contained eight sites including the Auckland Volcanic Fields, and the Napier Art Deco and Waitangi Treaty Grounds historic precincts. 

The development of the list started in 2004, and involved ​the establishment of two advisory boards to assess the best of 304 proposed sites against World Heritage criteria.

"A more detailed case for all of the identified sites is yet to proceed to the World Heritage Committee," Barry said.

"No assessment has been carried out on the Kaikōura site since the 2006 process.

"Nobody knows if the area would meet the current criteria for inclusion – to find that out we would have to go through a process similar to that started in 2004 and that would take significant time and money."

Whale Watch general manager Kauahi Ngapora said he welcomed the support from Labour, adding it was disappointing this had not been provided by the current Government.

"Our community has been really knocked by the earthquake, and World Heritage status would help our recovery and provide recognition for a truly unique part of Aotearoa," he said.

"We tick more boxes for this status than almost anywhere on the planet, and all the reasons we were not considered last time the list for New Zealand was reviewed have been solved."

Wichman said in his letter to the political parties that the reasons for Kaikōura not being included on the tentative list - a lack of protected marine and coastal areas and fragmented marine management, and a lack of protected lowland areas - had since been addressed.

The Kaikōura (Te Tai o Marokua) Marine Management Act 2014 established protected areas including the 10,416 hectare Hikurangi Marine Reserve, a 468,600 hectare whale sanctuary, a fur seal sanctuary, and five Mataiai reserves and Taiapure, or local, fisheries.

"Our geology, landscape, cultural history and our wildlife are all outstanding and this needs to be recognised," Ngapora said. 

 - The Marlborough Express


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