Concern over plan for road through Kahurangi National Park

  • 17/12/2015

Fish & Game is concerned over a proposal to put a road through the South Island’s remote Kahurangi National Park, saying it will jeopardise a pristine environment and an existing major tourist attraction.

The Buller District Council has just voted unanimously to get government support to investigate building a road linking the top of the West Coast region with Nelson. The council is proposing that the road would run 56km through the middle of the Kahurangi National Park from Little Wanganui to Wangapeka.

The Council’s Mayor Garry Howard believes the road would create closer links between Westport and Nelson and Karamea, boosting tourism and jobs.

But Fish & Game is calling on the council and mayor to think more laterally about meeting the very difficult economic challenge posed by the recent coal mine closure on the West Coast.

“Building a road through rugged mountain ranges and pristine native forest will jeopardise the existing environment and its associated remote experience that is already attracting many overseas and New Zealand visitors,” says Fish & Game’s Nelson-Marlborough Regional Manager Rhys Barrier.

“The bush and rivers that lie within the path of the proposed road are pristine which is why they are currently protected by a national park for the benefit of future generations.

“Kahurangi is one of New Zealand’s largest national parks and its isolation is part of the charm which currently draws New Zealanders and foreign tourists here to enjoy this wilderness.

“This will be fundamentally altered forever with any new road development.”

Rhys Barrier hopes these issues will be properly considered as part of any feasibility study into the project but doubts the road’s potential economic benefits will outweigh the enormous technical, legal, financial, and environmental hurdles it faces.

People from around the world come to fish the Karamea and Wangapeka rivers every year, bringing tourist dollars to Nelson and the West Coast. These river systems are internationally acclaimed by anglers for their stunning brown trout fisheries set in a magnificent landscape.

Fish & Game is also concerned that building the road will have a negative impact on the environment.

“Constructing a road through such an earthquake prone high rainfall area will result in greater sediment runoff, damaging the rivers and their fisheries and leaving the road and surrounding areas more vulnerable to slips,” says Mr Barrier.

Fish & Game’s West Coast Regional Manager Dean Kelly agrees the Karamea River is an internationally significant trout fishery that is prized for the remote backcountry fishing experience it offers.

Mr Kelly says surveys of international anglers show they value places like Kahurangi because they are becoming increasingly rare in today’s world.

“Any road proposal will need to take this into account and as such West Coast Fish & Game supports the approach of Buller District Council to assess the environmental issues. These issues may not be insurmountable but at this stage the Council will have to be aware that encroaching on Kahurangi’s remoteness risks “killing the golden goose for the sake of a few eggs’.”

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