Submission on Conservation General Policy

NZRCA's submission on the NZ Conservation Authority's General Policy for Conservation, compiled by Maree Baker and Tony Ward-Holmes, arguing that kayaking should not be regarded as a form of 'transport' and therefore 'actively discouraged' but should be regarded as recreation within the meaning of the Conservation Act.

Name: Maree Baker. Conservation Officer
Organisation: New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association

My Submission:

All sections of the draft policy
The presumption throughout the draft policy is that specific recreational activities should only be allowed if they are specifically mentioned in the management plan/strategy, and if they are compatible with the purpose for the area. This is contrary to the wording and intention of the Conservation Act to foster recreation and thus likely to be illegal.

The presumption in the wording of the policies should be that recreational activities must always be provided for unless incompatible with other stated conservation purposes, This is consistent with the definition of conservation in the Conservation Act:
The preservation and protection of natural and historic resources for the purpose of maintaining their intrinsic values, providing for their appreciation and recreational enjoyment for the public, and safeguarding the options of future generations.

Outcomes planned for a place
When determining the conservation outcomes for places, that then dictates what activities can occur at that place (i.e. only activities that are compatible with the outcome), priority should be given to achieving the key goals listed in the definition of conservation in the Conservation Act 1987, namely maintaining intrinsic values, providing for appreciation and recreational enjoyment for the public and safeguarding the options of future generations.

Clear policy direction needs to be given so that the goal of providing for appreciation and recreational enjoyment by the public is not effectively prevented or restricted because of narrowly defined/described outcomes.

Policy 3 (b) states:
Interested or affected individuals, organisations and experts will, where appropriate, be approached directly for their views on specific proposals.

Policy 3 (c):
Relationships for conservation outcomes should be developed and maintained with appropriate individuals and organisations.
The NZRCA has found that at times it is overlooked as a relevant stakeholder, and its views are paid insufficient regard. This is inappropriate. New Zealand has a strong, and growing kayaking community, and has an international reputation as a destination for kayaking. As such it is important that the interests of recreational kayakers are recognised and provided for in the management of the conservation estate. The NZRCA would like to see provision made in the general policies, for the development of and adherence to, an explicit consultation database and protocol. Alternatively, there could be the inclusion of a new policy that would somehow insure the more minority groups do not get overlooked or undervalued in the process.

Add a new policy requiring:
The compilation of a database for consultation, that would include (amongst others) representatives from national and local kayaking bodies; and The requirement for a consultation protocol with organisations on the database; or The inclusion of a new policy that has the effect of insuring that minority groups do not get overlooked or undervalued.

Policy Chapter 6

The inclusion in national parks of the beds of lakes and rivers vested in the Crown within the boundaries of the park should be sought wherever possible as these areas are ecologically part of the adjoining land areas within the park and their inclusion would allow for better integrated management of the park.
There is an extremely minimal mention made of recreation values, in the context of policies relating to the acquisition and protection of lands for conservation purposes. This is inappropriate. Areas of exceptional recreational importance should be given a similar priority to areas of cultural, historical and nature conservation importance.

Add to policies in section 6, so that: lands may be acquired to protect public access to areas of recreational value; and that high levels of protection will be given to areas of exceptional recreational importance.

Policy 9.6 (b) states:
Vehicle use and other forms of transport should be actively discouraged in those places where it is not provided for in management plans. In the equivalent National Parks Act General Policy section, Kayaks are classified as a form of transport. Policy 9.6 (b) needs to define what is meant by a form of transport. Irrespective, kayaks should not be classified as a form of transport as a non-powered watercraft. Kayaks are principally for recreation, not transport. Walking is as valid a form of transport as kayaking. It is absurd to actively discourage kayaking in the same sense that it is absurd to actively discourage walking in the conservation estate. It is therefore inappropriate that kayaks are treated the same as pure forms of transport, and subject to the presumption that kayaking must be actively discouraged, when it is a form of recreation.

In terms of impact, kayaking has a similar impact on the surrounding amenity as walkers, trampers and hunters, and should therefore not be treated differently from those activities by classifying it simply as a form of transport.

Given that kayaking as a form of recreation has a reasonably low profile, there is a risk that in the drafting of management plans it will be overlooked, and inadequately provided for. If this occurs, then in accordance with this policy, kayaking will be actively discouraged. Active discouragement of kayaking as a form of recreation by which the public enjoy the conservation estate will be inconsistent with the definition of conservation. To place kayaking in the same category as transport makes this a real risk.Policy 9.6 (b) should not apply to kayaking, which is primarily a recreational activity, rather than a form of transport.

Some distinction needs to be made between pure forms of transport, and recreational activities. This section needs to be divided into two sections, one dealing solely with pure forms of transport, and the other dealing with recreational activities, that also transport the user.

Recreational activities such as kayaking should in fact be actively encouraged, in order to achieve the purpose of the Conservation Act 1987. The use of the words actively discouraged should be replaced with managed or similar.

Access for kayaking

Kayakers use different forms of transport to gain access to the stretch of river to be paddled. The most common forms of transport used are cars, helicopters or foot access.Management plans and strategies need to contemplate providing access to rivers either by road or air.

Where management boundaries are set (eg: Wilderness Areas, Remote Experience Zones), boundaries should enable the public to have freedom of entry and consistent with the need to preserve park values. Policies in 9.1 set out the basic principles for planning and management of opportunities for visitor benefit, use and enjoyment. Management plans and strategies should always specify that kayaking is a recreation that should be allowed/provided for in the conservation estate.

Policy 9.1 (c) should be expanded, so that it lists all types of recreation that should be allowed for in the conservation estate, and specified in conservation management plans and strategies as a starting presumption. This list will need to be sufficiently general and broad so as to include all recreation that takes places in the conservation estate.

e.g: Non-powered water craft
Then, specific recreational activities may only be removed from that list for good reason. In this way, the risk of a recreational activity being overlooked and not provided for is minimised.

Policy 9.1 (c) There is still untapped and unused potential for kayaking navigable rivers that flow through the conservation estate. The sport of wilderness kayaking is growing, and a great number of rivers, particularly in the South Island, have only begun to be kayaked in the last decade. There are still rivers that have not yet been kayaked, but may be in the future, and may become popular. Management strategies and plans therefore need to not only address current opportunities, but also need to contemplate that recreational opportunities will continue to evolve. Management strategies should not unnecessarily prohibit this evolution, and expansion of recreational kayaking into new areas.

Amend policy 9.1 (c) to the following, or similar:
Management Plans should identify the outcomes sought in different places. They should identify what, if any, recreational opportunities, visitor activities, information and interpretation, accommodation, facilities and services (including those provided by concessionaires) are appropriate in those places, and to what extent. Outcomes should be identified in light of 9.1 (b) above and also considering all the following factors:

  1. current recreational opportunities provided;
  2. Potential growth and expansion of recreational opportunities
  3. uniqueness of some current recreational opportunities
  4. contribution to, and compatibility with, the wider network of recreational opportunities
  5. current and projected levels of visitor use. It is likely that patterns of use, and areas used by kayakers will change reasonably quickly.

Therefore, there needs to be a mechanism in the management strategies or plans for the review of the documents to incorporate and allow for these changes.