"unlawful" Milford Sound helicopter landings
The Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand is today declaring victory over the Department of Conservation's decision to allow a massive number of helicopter landings on a remote Fiordland Glacier. In 2016, the Department of Conservation controversially allowed 80 helicopter landings a day on the remote Ngapunatoru Plateau, near Milford Sound - breaching the Fiordland National Park Management Plan - calling it "research".
Federated Mountain Clubs took the issue to the Ombudsman, Leo Donnelly, who has in a finding released today declared DOC's decision to be "contrary to law". The report is published on the Ombudsman's website, www.ombudsman.parliament.nz today.
Mr Donnelly has today ordered that DOC end the research trial and cancel the extra landings. The Department of Conservation will also be required to report regularly on how it rolls back the allowed number of helicopter landings to an acceptable level, ahead of a new park plan being consulted on.
FMC President Peter Wilson stated that "this is a victory for the outdoor community, for the rule of law on public land, and for the intrinsic values of Fiordland. The "Japanese Whaling" style research "trial" ends.
"FMC always knew that DOC was wrong in granting the extra landings, but it is satisfying to have it declared unlawful today. We worked hard on behalf of our members to get this result".
"National park management plans mean what they say and say what they mean", Mr Wilson said, and "are not open for abuse by the Department in response to pressure from the previous government and the tourism industry"
Mr Wilson added that this was the second such ruling from the Ombudsman in recent years over Department decision-making, with a previous decision by DOC to allow extra guided walkers on the nearby Routeburn Track described by previous Ombudsman Peter Boshier as "nonsense on stilts".
"We thank the Ombudsmen profusely for providing a working check and balance over the DOC system"
DOC has said it will implement the findings of the Ombudsman's report.
FMC stated that it was positive that DOC supported the findings of the report, which he understood and FMC would work positively and proactively with the Department and with the aircraft operators to put in place a new system of aircraft landings ahead of the Fiordland National Park Management Plan review.
About Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand
Established in 1931, Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand (FMC) is New Zealand’s national association of over 80 tramping & mountain-climbing clubs, representing a total of over 20,000 individual members.