15 October 2021: Read the NZCA's advice to the Minister of Conservation regarding the Milford Opportunities Project Masterplan.

To: Hon Kiri Allan, Minister of Conservation
Date: 15 October 2021

This letter provides feedback from the New Zealand Conservation Authority (Authority) on the Milford Opportunities Project Masterplan (Masterplan). At this stage our advice takes a high level, strategic overview of the Masterplan.

The Authority believes that Milford Sound / Piopiotahi is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular natural landscapes, attracting a high number of international visitors and domestic tourists. In addition to its natural beauty, Piopiotahi has special cultural significance for mana whenua.  The Masterplan recognises these special values of Piopiotahi and the process for developing strategies for its future management has treated the area with the mana it deserves.

The Authority is encouraged that the development of the Masterplan appears to have involved genuine partnership with Ngāi Tahu, and believes that the interweaving of the cultural values of mana whenua is a strength of the Masterplan.

The Authority is also encouraged that the Masterplan recognises the importance of Piopiotahi to all New Zealanders and proposes retaining free access to both Piopiotahi itself and the rest of Fiordland National Park along the Milford corridor.

The Masterplan contains a lot of ideas which the Authority believes can be carried out within the current legislative framework; all options to achieve these should be carefully analysed before legislative change is considered.  

It is the opinion of the Authority that the Department of Conservation should be the lead agency on all work relating to Piopiotahi in order to maintain the cultural and conservation values and thus the mana of Milford Sound/Piopiotahi. To this end the Authority believes that both Piopiotahi and the Milford Corridor should remain within the Fiordland National Park.

In addition, the Authority notes that the over-arching governance of the project should lie with the Minister of Conservation, as there is potential for the project to become an economically driven initiative.

In order to achieve the Masterplan’s goals of carbon neutrality and low carbon emissions, the Authority notes that an early assessment of climate change effects should be carried out during the Masterplan’s feasibility period. These assessments should also consider emergency management measures in regard to seismic activity and the risk to the proposed infrastructure.

The project has the potential to set a precedent for future management of other perceived overcrowded places in National Parks and on public conservation land and waters. Projects of this nature often yield unintended consequences, which must be fully investigated before making any significant changes.

The Authority would encourage the Minister to visit Piopiotahi, if you have not yet had the opportunity to do so in your official capacity as Minister of Conservation.

The Authority acknowledges that this is an on-going project and will provide more detailed advice on the Masterplan itself and any future developments of the Milford Opportunities Project.   

No reira

E noho ora mai

Edward Ellison ONZM
Chairperson NZCA


Read the Milford Oppertunities Masterplan: A Masterplan for Milford Sound Piopiotahi and the Journey

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