The Department of Conservation has been found to have broken the rules by upping the number of allowed helicopter landings at a remote Fiordland glacier.

Ombudsman Leo Donnelly has released his decision over a complaint lodged against the Department of Conservation (DoC) by Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC).

It centred around concerns that DoC had raised the number of helicopter flights to the Ngapunatoru Plateau in Fiordland National Park, enabling more tourists to visit the Mt Tutoko Glacier.

Under the Fiordland National Park Management Plan, there were limits to the number of flights that could be made to the plateau each day and each year - something FMC complained DoC was in breach of when it took its step.


In his ruling, Donnelly said he'd formed the opinion DoC's decision was "unreasonable" and that aspects of it appeared to have been contrary to law.

He recommended DoC back-track on the move, take steps to ensure landing limits were consistent with those in the plan, and develop a new strategy.

DoC's general operations deputy-director Mike Slater said the recommendations had been accepted and would be actioned.

"The department was trying to be pragmatic and balance the growing demands from tourism operators for more scenic glacier landings with the impact such landings can have on other users and the environment," Slater said.

"But we accept we got it wrong by not following the limits set in the Fiordland National Park Management plan."

FMC president Peter Wilson hailed the decision as "a victory for the rule of law, the park, and the outdoor community".

Wilson said the case had been a "stand-out example of bad decision-making" by DoC and was delighted the Ombudsman had backed his group's complaint.

"The public has to have confidence that our national parks are managed with the rule of law."


New Zealand Recreation Association advocacy manager Sam Newton was also pleased with the decision.

"It is increasingly hard to manage the demands of tourism and the recreational needs of New Zealanders," Newton said.

"National Park Management Plans are where that balance is achieved and it is not okay to deviate from those plans, even on a 'trial' basis."

"We are very happy that mountaineers and trampers will be able to enjoy some peace and quiet in a special part of the world."