Impact of trampers in Fiordland in spotlight

By Margot Taylor

Trampers in Fiordland left "all kinds of rubbish" behind, said New Zealand Aviation president Lloyd Mathieson. Photo / Supplied
Trampers in Fiordland left "all kinds of rubbish" behind, said New Zealand Aviation president Lloyd Mathieson. Photo / Supplied

The impact of increased helicopter flights on a Fiordland National Park ice plateau will be minimal compared with the harm caused by trampers, an aviation industry leader says.

New Zealand Aviation president Lloyd Mathieson said helicopter pilots were sick of being blamed for damaging the environment when trampers left "all kinds of rubbish" behind.

"They are complaining about the noise pollution, but we'd like to complain about what they leave behind," he said.

"We see human waste and toilet paper sometimes."

Mr Mathieson's comments came in the wake of an announcement that Federated Mountain Clubs was asking the Ombudsman to intervene following an agreement between the Department of Conservation and the aviation industry to increase helicopter landings in Fiordland National Park.

Heliworks Helicopters Queenstown pilot Scott Theyers said concerns by FMC more flights could cause noise pollution were not valid.

Pilots were required to manage noise levels and the national park did not belong to trampers, he said.

"It is not just their park. It is in our interest to protect the environment, too."

FMC vice-president Jan Finlayson said helicopters were not low impact.

A helicopter flies over Fiordland. Photo / Supplied
A helicopter flies over Fiordland. Photo / Supplied

"It's like Vietnam in some places with the noise and smell of aviation fuel ... Flight operators saying a chopper of tourists on a McDonald's-style glacier trip is less harmful than a bunch of trampers should be in comedy not aviation."

Following closed-door talks with members of the aviation and tourism industries, DoC is set to increase landings on Mt Tutoko's Ngapunatoru ice plateau from 10 a day to 80.

DoC planning and permissions director Marie Long said the 12-month flight trial increase would form a "research programme" which would be used to inform a review of the management plan in January next year.

University of Otago environmental law expert Dr Nicola Wheen said DoC was not required to get a concession to increase landings on the plateau because the increase was deemed to be research.

"Is it disingenuous for DoC to ignore limits that have been applied for a really good reason? Yes it is.

"The limits in the plan obviously exist for a reason.

"They are within their rights to do it but I think the fact they are doing it behind closed doors and are obviously opening themselves up to industry pressure is pretty bad form, too."

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts dismissed claims DoC had been pressured by the tourism industry to increase flight allowances.

"They were under pressure to make a decision, not under pressure to relent or to cede to the demands of the industry."

Mr Roberts said the kind of market which would be attracted to the flights were "exactly the sort of visitors" New Zealand wanted to attract.

"These are the opportunities we need to make available to people and this tourism relies on the environment.

"No one operating these helicopters has any interest in harming the environment at all."

- Otago Daily Times

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 23 Jan 2017 16:22:43 Processing Time: 575ms