Forest & Bird member Derek Kelly has spearheaded a successful campaign to create a 500 metre buffer zone restricting development around the Tongariro World Heritage Area and National Park.
One of the major aims of the buffer zone to be created by the Ruapehu District Council is to better protect the river and stream network on the fringes of the park, such as the Manganui o Te Ao River and its wildlife, including whio (blue ducks), brown kiwi and New Zealand falcons.
“They are all ground nesting birds and with greater housing development on the fringes of the national park, you get pests and domestic pets introduced, which put a lot of pressure on the native wildlife,” said Derek, who lives at Pokaka near Ohakune.
Restrictions within the new buffer zone will limit the number of houses that can be built to much lower levels than previously applied. There will also be more restrictions on quarrying, commercial forestry and the installation of utilities such as power pylons in the buffer zone.
In the last 15 or so years there has been a lot of development on the boundary of the park. Housing density has increased after the minimum lot size for building a house was cut from 20 hectares to one hectare.
Derek first started campaigning for a buffer zone in 2008 when a subdivision was approved without public notification on farm land adjoining both his property and the Manganui o Te Ao River.
With support from North Island Conservation Manager Mark Bellingham, he has fought a long battle to ensure the environmental sensitivity of the area next to the World Heritage Area is recognised.
“The council has made a very sensible decision to put some rules in for the benefit of the park,” he said.
There had been a lot of opposition to the new restrictions in the buffer zone with some landowners concerned that their property rights would be denied.
But Derek says the new rules should work well if DOC works closely in cooperation with landowners to protect nature on the edge of Tongariro, the only dual World Heritage Area in New Zealand, in recognition of both its outstanding volcanic landscapes and Maori cultural importance.
“If DOC, regional councils and private landowners work more closely together, we can get better control of stoats, feral cats and possums. Cooperation, trust and respect are the key to this initiative.”
Besides making pest control easier, the buffer zone will also help retain wildlife corridors linking the national