Federated Mountain Clubs and Save Fiordland would have saved thousands of dollars and years of work had Department of Conservation officials taken FMC’s advice that DOC’s management plans mean what they say and say what they mean, said FMC President Robin McNeill today.
“The Ombudsman’s opinion released yesterday upholding mountaineer Chas Tanner’s complaint that the Department had unlawfully granted a concession on the Routeburn Track is precedent-setting”, said Mr McNeill. “For over 27 years we have been telling DOC that their management plans are uniformly binding on everyone. This opinion says we are right. In essence, the Ombudsman confirms that public participatory democracy trumps bureaucratic whim”.
“We have become increasingly frustrated that certain DOC officials have been cavalier in approving concessions in public conservation lands that fly in the face of management plans that had been prepared with thousands of hours of public submissions and input. “The Mt Aspiring National Park Management Plan was still warm from the printer when someone in DOC middle-management decided it was out of date and ignored it”, said Mr McNeill about the Routeburn concession. “That is arrogant and it is undemocratic”.
Mr McNeill believes that most DOC staff, including senior management, would welcome the Ombudsman’s opinion as it settles a long-running issue of contention. “DOC decision-makers, conservation boards, potential concessionaires and the public all want and need strong guidance to be found in good management plans. And these plans then need to be respected. In the end, it saves time and it saves money for everyone”.
Read the full report from the Ombudsman here: Ombudsman decision
Read the Otago Daily Times coverage here: Ombudsman slates DOC park decision