First Maori national park close to fruition after years of talks
Laurel Stowell | Tuesday, November 22, 2011 7:37
Years of dialogue between Whanganui iwi and the Department of Conservation are likely to come to fruition with a plan that prepares the way for New Zealand’s first Maori national park.
The Taranaki/Whanganui Conservation Board last week approved the Whanganui National Park Draft Management Plan, chairman Darryn Ratana said.
The plan was started in 2003 but stalled because Whanganui Maori were angry at being consulted only when it was well advanced.
Since then they have been involved in discussions with the department. One of their concerns was how the plan would affect their claims for land and the Whanganui River.
The current draft plan is the result of those discussions.
The board has been told the iwi is now pleased with it and excited about the prospect of getting involved in day-to-day park management. Mr Ratana said it was something Whanganui Maori had wanted and expected since the park was created in 1986.
The plan next needs approval from the New Zealand Conservation Authority, which is likely to go back to DoC to get its view.
“We would be concerned if the department come back with any changes to the plan we’re recommending,” Mr Ratana said.
When the plan is finally approved in February the board will host the New Zealand Conservation Authority for three days, in Wanganui, Pipiriki and at Tieke inside the park – to celebrate.
Mr Ratana said a Maori national park would bring huge opportunities to the community.
Whanganui National Park was unique in New Zealand in that people actually lived in it. Those settlements could become a drawcard for tourists.
The concept might seem innovative, but DoC was already a lot more connected to local iwi and hapu groups than in the past, Mr Ratana said.