Kahurangi plan threatens river access

This article by Jonathan Hunt summarises the NZRCA submission regarding the "Kahurangi National Park Draft Management Plan", (October 1997) and was originally published in NZ Canoeing 98.1, March 1998.

Back in February, the NZRCA made a submission on the "Kahurangi National Park Draft Management Plan", October 1997, outlining our concerns over continued access to rivers like the Karamea, Waingaro, Anatoki and Stanley. All page references in the text below are to the Management Plan document. For more information, contact DoC.

4.1 Visitor Services and Management / Issues and Opportunities / Facilities (p59)

Table 6 shows Kahurangi Hut maintenance priorities; Luna and Roaring Lion hut are both listed as *3 (close / low), and Greys Hut has no maintenance priority (p59). These huts are convenient stopping places for multi-day kayak parties on the Karamea river. The spacing of huts at Luna, Venus, Roaring Lion and Greys mean that kayak-only expeditions can be mounted, overcoming the limited cargo capacity of kayaks. The Karamea is a world-class whitewater and scenic experience and the presence of the huts listed means kayakers have access to shelter and cooking facilities.

Removal of the huts would require kayakers to carry additional shelter and cooking equipment, raising the cost of expeditions and making the multiday option impractical for most. This would be a tragedy as there are only a handful of rivers in New Zealand offering multiday whitewater trips. Removal of these huts would impact kayakers disproportionately and would therefore adversely affect the recreational value of the Karamea. The huts should continue to be maintained to a basic level.

4.1 Visitor Services and Management / Issues and Opportunities (p61-63)

Kayaking is not mentioned in the list of issues and opportunities which raises questions regarding the extent to which DoC understands or recognises the needs of recreational kayakers. Kayaking, like caving, climbing and fishing, has specific impacts on the park, and these need to be managed. Kayakers tend to use helicopter access since it is impractical to carry a 4m kayak and associated equipment into the New Zealand bush. Once on the water, kayakers tend to have minimal impact (ie. almost no use of tracks).

Kayaking should be recognised as a legitimate recreational activity and kayakers should be consulted over any issues (such as hut closures, wilderness area boundary changes and air access policy) that may affect them.

4.1.1 The Tasman Wilderness Area / Issues and Opportunities / Boundaries (p67)

A suggestion has been made to move the Wilderness Area boundary to include the Roaring Lion hut, which would then be removed. As previously stated, the Roaring Lion hut is ideally spaced from other huts and easily accessed from the Karamea River. The proposed boundary change would be detrimental to kayakers as outlined above, and should not proceed.

4.1.1 The Tasman Wilderness Area / Issues and Opportunities / Implementation / Item 1 (p68)

There is a proposal to limit landings on the border of the Wilderness Area. This could limit the ability of kayakers to arrange food drops at strategic points on the Karamea (often required due to the low cargo capacity of kayaks). Any changes to air access on the boundaries of the Wilderness Area should be assessed for impact on kayakers.

4.2 Concessions / Implementation / Items 10, 12, 13, 14 (p76)

All of these implementation items raise concerns regarding the continued availability of helicopter access to existing whitewater rivers such as the Karamea, Anatoki, Stanley and Waingaro. Also, limitation of helicopter overflight and landing would severely limit the discovery of new kayaking resources. Limiting the total number of landings will reduce the ability of future kayakers to access Kahurangi's unexplored rivers. Kayaking is a growth sport, and 'wilderness' paddling particularly so. New equipment, techniques and attitudes are opening up many small and remote rivers that would never have been considered only ten years ago. DoC need to recognise the criticality of helicopter access to the viability of recreational kayaking. Kayaks are large and unwieldy, and are particularly unsuitable for foot access. Limitations on air access would have a particularly detrimental impact on kayakers (unlike hunting, climbing, caving and tramping). Any changes to huts, helicopter access, landing sites and wilderness areas should be negotiated with local kayak clubs (Nelson Canoe Club, Westland Canoe Club) and the NZRCA.

Do you have any comments on the NZRCA's position regarding kayak access in Kahurangi National Park?
Please write or email us at access@rivers.org.nz and let us know your views...