Opening of Hakatere Conservation Park
Speech notes for opening of Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury
Who can imagine wanting to be anywhere else today than here on the shores of Lake Heron, in this fabulously beautiful landscape, celebrating the opening of Hakatere Conservation Park.
The third high country park in as many years - you have all been very busy in Canterbury!
First of all I'd like to acknowledge the many groups, individuals and iwi who are here today to celebrate this magnificent new park, including our host Phillip Waring of Arrowsmith Station and station managers Eric and Sally Smith, who sheared through rain, sleet and snow in the past few weeks to make sure the decks were cleared in time for this event.
It's appropriate that you, Phillip, should host us today as a key piece of this new park was of course the Clent Hills NHF purchase beside Lake Heron that yourselves, along with Phillip Todhunter of Upper Lake Heron and Paul & Kerry Harmer from Castle Ridge Station, jointly contributed to. Your recognition of the conservation values of the area has led to nationally significant habitat achieving protection.
I'd also like to welcome members of Ngai Tahu, neighbouring landholders, Forest and Bird, representatives of the Nature Heritage Fund, the Mt Somers Walkway Society, the Canterbury Aoraki Conservation Board, Ashburton District Council and representatives of Land Information New Zealand.
Although my colleague and Minister for LINZ David Parker couldn't be here today, I know he would have loved to be, he is a great outdoors enthusiast.
Metiria Turei of the Green Party would have liked to be here today, funding through a Budget bid by the party this year has ensured wetland areas in Hakatere will be preserved and protected.
This area is the only place that protects an extensive complex of kettlehole wetlands with their associated turf plant communities. With names like pygmy club rush, I understand that strong, well-padded knees and a magnifying glass are the best ways to truly appreciate these special threatened plants. As well as remarkable wetland areas, Hakatere Conservation Park provides protection and public access to more than 68,000 hectares of land. We already know this area is well-loved and visited by locals, who come here for tramping and picnicking. The lakes provide water-skiing, windsurfing, sailing and fishing and I know the small communities that cluster on the lake edges have shared some special family times here. The basin is a gateway for sports such as big game hunting, ski-touring and mountaineering.
As a park we expect Hakatere to attract plenty of visitors from further afield. This is what we have seen following the opening of Ahuriri and Ruataniwha parks in Mackenzie Basin. The first summer after Ahuriri opened, a survey conducted by Otago University showed a big increase in the amount of people visiting the area, 60% of them first-time visitors.
For me, the most important point from these kinds of surveys is the high number of first time users (42%) and the 92% of visitors who said they would return.
The area we are in has significant value to Ngâi Tahu as it was part of the seasonal trail of mahinga kai. This was formally recognised in statute when a 'Deed of Recognition' was placed over the area through the Ngâi Tahu Settlement Act 1998.
Today, the value of the area to the local community is best illustrated by the commitment of various volunteer groups who are actively making a difference to conservation in the region. These include landcare groups made up of local landowners working co-operatively with agencies on weed control in the rivers.
Local Forest and Bird has been enormously active here and I congratulate you on your ongoing efforts to make others realise just how special this place is - your nomination of the area for World Heritage status for example. I'd like to welcome those members who have joined us here today - Val and Colin Clemens, Bill & Janet Hood, Peter & Jan Howden, Larry Rattray; Marijke Bakker-Gesling and Fraser Ross.
I also want to congratulate the Mt Somers Walkway Society for the Mt Somers Track. David Howden, Warren and Marita Jowett and others have worked together to open up the sub-alpine region to a whole new generation.
Mr Cuddihy mentioned the huge part Nature Heritage Fund has played in securing land to form the heart of this new network of conservation parks. I am pleased to be able to announce today they have been successful again, in negotiating the purchase of Hakatere Station.
There's a little bit more paperwork, surveying and background work to be done before it can be formally gazetted, but once that is complete, it will be a significant addition to the new park we are celebrating today.
Without further ado, I declare Hakatere Conservation Park open.