A Maniototo man has criticised the Department of Conservation for being hypocritical about Central Otago's hinterland.
George Lindsay says Doc staff are ignoring damage caused by people to the Buster diggings in the Oteake Conservation Park, but continue an unwarranted "obsession'' with wanting to rid the district of deer.
Doc said vehicle access was needed to ensure all who wanted to use the park could, and deer, even in low numbers, could pose a significant risk to some plant life.
Mr Lindsay, a retired farmer from Ranfurly, said the historic gold diggings were being "ruined'' by people on 4WDs, motorbikes and sand buggies.
The vehicle damage at the Buster diggings had been getting worse during the past two to three years, and the most damage was caused during summer holiday periods, he said.
Large gouges from tyres and wheelie marks could clearly be seen all over the gold-mining site, which is is full of large mounds of white-cream quartz gravel, when the ODT visited last week.
Mr Lindsay said while Doc staff acknowledged damage had been done, they were "ducking for cover'' and doing nothing to protect the area, while continuing wild animal recovery operations (Waro) helicopter deer-culling programmes that, Mr Lindsay said, put the public at risk and took away recreational hunting opportunities for the public.
"I challenge them [Doc] to show me the damage deer are causing in this area, because I can clearly show them the damage [caused by people] at the Buster diggings.
"They are being hypocrites and not looking after the area properly.''
He did not know what the solution was, but things such as fencing the area off to vehicles and having staff in the area to monitor it during the peak of summer could be considered.
Doc Twizel acting operations manager Dean Nelson said Doc staff were aware of the inappropriate use of the heritage tailings at the Buster diggings by some visitors.
"Despite signage restricting vehicles from exiting the road, we know of some vehicles driving over the tailings and causing damage to the historic site. We're also aware of vehicles driving through high-value wetlands, causing severe damage to ecosystems.
"Due to the high altitude, the wetlands struggle to recover from the damage.''
Mr Nelson said vehicle access in Oteake Conservation Park, which covers large tracts of the St Bathans, Ewe, Hawkdun, Ida and St Marys Ranges, and parts of the upper Manuherikia Basin, was "a valuable way of ensuring this very large conservation park is accessed by a wide range of users including cyclists, walkers, hunters and fishers''.
He said: "Where we have evidence of inappropriate vehicle use we will undertake compliance action.''
Mr Nelson said Doc took a "precautionary approach'' to managing deer.