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National park push begins

By Beckie Wilson

[email protected]

A Wairarapa environmentalist is masterminding a push to recognise Rimutaka Forest Park as a national park.

Kahungunu ki Wairarapa environment manager Ra Smith says there are many factors why the forest park should be upgraded to national status.

Birds, animals, flora and fauna within the park, the proximity of Wairarapa Moana, its Maori significance and its tourism factor, were among several reasons why it should become a national park, he said.

“In a time where a lot of water species are threatened, and other things around conservation, to have something that we can say this area is protected by national significance — that’s what I think is important.

“There is the growing of Wellington as a tourism spot — even though most of our tourists are from the city, it is becoming a more important tourist spot,” Mr Smith said.

“It gives us an opportunity for places such as Wairarapa or Paekakariki, to become places that tourists may want to see.”

Wairarapa, with the Rimutaka National Park as its jewel in the crown, could be one of Wellington’s drawcards just like Queenstown is to Christchurch.

Rather than building a zoo, a national park could be a place where people could see native birds and plant life, he said.

The Rimutaka Forest Park covers 22,000ha of forest including the Rimutaka Range.

The park draws trampers and hunters, and those wanting to enjoy native flora and fauna.

It stretches from Wainuiomata, around to Upper Hutt and over the Hill to just shy of Featherston and to Palliser Bay.

The park is public conservation land managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) on behalf of all New Zealanders.

“If we are looking at being more ‘conservationally-minded’, then having a national park in the southern part of the North Island makes sense – it seems like quite a big area to not have as a national park,” Mr Smith said.

There are 14 national parks across the country, with the most recent one, Rakiura in Stewart Island being opened in 2002. It was approved by the Conservation Minister in 1999.

“One of the things about a national park is appreciating it, and having the main road going through it is an opportunity for people to get up close.”

Some people had asked him why he wanted a national park rather than a regional park title.

“In terms of conserving nature, the national park (status) has a level of importance that regional doesn’t have.”

Wairarapa Moana is in the final stages of gaining Ramsar status, an international recognition of wetlands.

It would only make sense to have a national park bordering an internationally-recognised moana, he said.

The boundaries would remain the same as the forest park, with the possibility of it being extended out further.

Mr Smith put forward a submission to DOC on behalf of Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, and attended a pre-hearing discussion.

Now, the submission plan is being worked through by the regional board, and he expects to hear back from them by the end of the year.

DOC spokesman Jim Flack said Mr Smith’s submission was in the very early stages of a lengthy process.

“We are at the beginning of a process that is set out under the National Parks Act,” he said.

The formal process requires the submission to meet many criteria including how it would affect tangata whenua and surrounding communities.

Then it must be recommended by the local Conservation Board, a statutory board appointed to advise the minister and DOC.

The minister must approve it, then recommend it to government for final approval.

Rimutaka Forest Park Trust president Geoff Cameron said while the idea of the national park was beyond their goals as a volunteer trust, he supported anyone who was trying to “enhance the natural values of the park”.


  1. Nat park status will deny local hunters access to a resource used for 150 years.lt will also encourage developement which will further undermine its wild and wilderness ‘feel’ already at risk from DoCs themepark mentality. Its already available to those who truly love wilderness spaces and should be left alone by those who are determined to ‘moneterise’ our wild places.Keep the tourists out, this is our whenua.Ed.

  2. I disagree – currently I can take my dog here (with a permit). This would not be an option in a national park. I vote no.

  3. GREAT IDEA. Would save an area close to cities and towns for future use of the general public. Better give DoC more funding to be able to maintain it though.

  4. This move is long overdue. At the same time it should be accompanied by a clean-up of Lake Wairarapa.

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