The Adams Wilderness Area extends over 466 square kilometers of pristine, rugged country in the Southern Alps, centred on the Garden of Eden and Garden of Allah ice plateaus. It is delimited by the Perth and Wanganui Rivers in Westland, and by the headwaters of the Rakaia and Rangitata Rivers in the Canterbury High Country. With its vast glaciers, impressive mountains and wild river valleys, it is a mecca for trampers, climbers and tahr hunters, and is thus of very high importance to our members.
As per the Wilderness Policy 1985, a gazetted wilderness area “will not have developments such as huts, tracks, bridges, signs, nor mechanised access.”
At the end of March 2018, FMC was made aware of the fact that 3 bivvies had been flown into and installed within the boundaries of the Adams Wilderness Area, and that rough tracks had been cut to assist predator control operations. A map showing the location of the bivvies is shown below (click on map to see a larger version).
The bivvies are temporary structures, and will be removed once the operation is completed. No date for their removal has been set so far. The operation is scheduled to run for two years, at the end of which plans will be updated depending on the first part of the operation’s results. The bivvies are locked, and are not available for use by trampers. The need for complete self-reliance in the Adams Wilderness remains unaltered.
The predator control operation is run by ZIP (Zero Invasive Predators) and was authorized by the Department of Conservation, without any consultation with recreational user groups, other than tahr hunters (who lost their allocated ballots as a result of the process).
Given the importance of the Adams Wilderness Area to trampers and climbers, it is not surprising that we have had some strong negative reactions from few of our members. In this news post, we aim to give as much background information about the project as practical, as well as to take a dispassionate stance on the issue.
Was the installation of temporary bivvies in the Wilderness Area illegal?
Wilderness Areas are a recreational concept – they are set aside for recreational users to experience the natural environment in its unmodified state – whereas predator control clearly falls under the umbrella of conservation. Recreation and conservation often go hand in hand, and it is not often that they are conflicting.
The Conservation Act 1987, Section 6e, states that:
“The functions of the Department are to administer this Act and the enactments specified in Schedule 1, and, subject to this Act and those enactments and to the directions (if any) of the Minister,
(a) to manage for conservation purposes, all land, and all other natural and historic resources…
(e) to the extent that the use of any natural or historic resource for recreation or tourism is not inconsistent with its conservation, to foster the use of natural and historic resources for recreation, and to allow their use for tourism.”
There is a clear hierarchy of priorities in the Conservation Act 1987, conservation being at the top, followed by recreation, followed by tourism. In those instances where conservation and recreation are conflicting, conservation trumps recreation.
Section 20 of the Conservation Act 1987 deals specifically with Wilderness Areas.
Paragraph (2) states that “If—
(a) the doing of anything on a wilderness area is in conformity with the conservation management strategy or conservation management plan for the area; and
(b) the Minister is satisfied that its doing is desirable or necessary for the preservation of the area’s indigenous natural resources,—
the Minister may authorise it.”
FMC is satisfied that no laws were breached in this instance. The Department of Conservation is doing its job (Conservation), and acted fully within its rights and according to its mandate in giving approval for the installation of bivvies in the Adams Wilderness for the purpose of predator control.
Shouldn’t ZIP be doing this somewhere else?
From a purely selfish point of view, as recreational users we could argue that ZIP could have / should have selected a different area (that is not gazetted as Wilderness) for this project. However, we have to accept that rats, stoats and possums do not know and do not care about the boundaries of a Wilderness Area. They are in there, just like they are everywhere else. DoC has a mandate to protect our indigenous biodiversity on the whole conservation estate – including Wilderness Areas. For us to assert that no predator control should take place inside the boundaries of a Wilderness Area would be the same as to assert that it does not matter if vulnerable indigenous species are wiped out from Wilderness Areas, provided our recreational needs are met. This is an absolutely unacceptable and untenable stance. What makes our Wilderness Areas special for recreation is the conservation of the natural environment, in all of its elements: landscapes, flora, fauna, clean water, lack of light and noise pollution, and so on.
Predator control in Wilderness Areas is something we need to endorse, and embrace. ZIP’s operation in the Adams Wilderness Area will enhance its value, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also for recreation.
DoC should have consulted with recreational users before giving approval to this project
Yes the Department of Conservation should have consulted with all interested parties. It is regrettable that no such consultation took place, and FMC complained about this strongly.
In May 2018, FMC President Peter Wilson met with ZIP’s CEO Al Bramley and with ZIP’s Strategy and Systems Director Joseph Arand, and was given written reassurance that we would be consulted prior to any future projects involving Wilderness Areas or public conservation land of interest to trampers. We believe that consultation will be of benefit to all interested parties.
We also want to take the opportunity to celebrate every small step in the right direction towards achieving the ambitious goal of Predator Free 2050.