Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC says the newly announced $5.6 million Provincial Growth Fund investment at the Ōparara Valley in Kahurangi National Park will ensure the natural heritage arches and cave ecosystems of the area are protected for future generations.

Date:  29 November 2018

 The valley has a growing reputation for its impressive limestone arches in a forested river valley setting. It is also rich in birdlife and has an important cultural history for Ngāti Waewae.

 With 15,000 people visiting Ōparara annually it is important detailed planning and infrastructure retains and protects the area’s significant environmental and cultural values.

 Mark Davies, DOC Western South Island Operations Director says Tourism West Coast’s initial concept work has secured funding for the road to made safer, and work to tracks and viewing areas will better manage the environmental impact of visitors to the Ōparara.

 “Using DOC’s environmental and visitor infrastructure expertise we will work with all interested parties to ensure any work in the Ōparara Basin is undertaken in a sensitive and appropriate manner – with protection of the environment foremost.

 “We take our responsibility for this place very seriously. DOC will monitor the ongoing impact of visitors at Ōparara including investigating transport options, such as a park and ride, to manage visitor impact.

 “The new visitor infrastructure will be understated and fit the natural values that surround it,” promised Mr Davies.

Background information

Funding will be used to improve the access road up to the Ōparara Arches and the track to the arch will be also be upgraded. The proposal does not include a track in the arch itself.

Access to the Moria Gate will be improved to ensure the safety of both visitors and the environment; and protection measures for the Honeycomb Hill Caves Specially Protected area will be improved.

The options for a viewing structure at the Mirror Tarn will be considered; and the visitor experience will be enriched through story-telling, signage and an interactive app. DOC will plan and manage the work and continue to manage the site once the project is complete.

Will there be artificial elements such as lighting or model animals?

No. The work to be funded as part of the PGF funding still requires detailed planning but will be appropriate for the site, and in keeping with the understated style of work that DOC uses for visitor infrastructure in sensitive natural environments. Any work that takes place here will keep the integrity of the natural experience intact. 

Is there a need for this project?

Many visitors are already coming to the Ōparara Arches even without the infrastructure there to protect the site and ensure visitor safety. By ensuring the road and tracks are fit for purpose and designed to minimise visitor impacts at the site, this investment will protect Ōparara’s unique natural values and heritage, and keep people safe while they enjoy the area.

Has DOC had input to this project so far?

DOC has provided feedback to TWC on the concepts developed so far. This has resulted in some ideas that DOC deemed not appropriate for the area being dropped.  The concept that has received funding has the support of DOC, and DOC will lead the planning and implementation of the work that will take place in Ōparara.

Does this proposal require further assessment?

Yes. The work needs to meet the test of an Assessment of Environmental Effects, comply with relevant DOC standards in relation to tracks and structures plus meet strict engineering design and geotechnical assessments. The work also needs to be consistent with the direction set out for this area as described in the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan.

Who will undertake the work on the facilities.

This work will be project managed by DOC.

How many people currently visit the Ōparara?

15,000 p/a


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