National clarifies position on Waitakere national park

By Wayne Thompson

National's proposal to look at giving the Waitakere Ranges national park status will not involve a review of legislation which lumps public and private land together in a heritage area, the party says.

The Waitakere Ranges Heritage Act came into force in April despite opposition from the party and a lobby of 1000 private landowners.

Yesterday, the party's environment spokesman, Nick Smith, said its election policy was to trigger section 8 of the National Parks Act which allowed a formal investigation into a new park on the public park lands of the ranges.

"There are no national parks in Auckland," said Dr Smith.

"Its greatest assets are the Hauraki Gulf and the Waitakere Ranges, from a conservation view. We believe the ranges deserve the highest protection, which is what the National Parks Act provides for."

But Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee said the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, which forms 17,000ha of the new heritage act's area, was ARC owned and managed.

"It is already protected in perpetuity in public ownership and has another layer of protection [in the heritage act] which recognises its national, regional and local significance.

"Turning a regional park into a national park in a formal way would raise the interesting situation of a regional agency running a national park, or is it the intention that it be given to the Department of Conservation, the Government agency which manages all other national parks?

"This being the case, DoC would need to significantly increase staff to match the level of ARC ranger management," said Mr Lee.

Dr Smith said a National government would not make changes to management of the ranges until it knew what changes were recommended by the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance.

"We would want to work with whoever is the successor organisation to the ARC in making sure that in increasing protection for the park we don't compromise any management now.

"The options may include a partnership between central Government and Auckland's governance ... we are open-minded."

- NZ Herald

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