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Investigation into aircraft landing limits on Ngapunatoru Plateau

Ombudsmen Act 1975
Related legislation:
Conservation Act 1987,
National Parks Act 1980
Legislation display text:
Ombudsmen Act 1975, ss 13, 22
National Parks Act 1980, ss 4, 43, 46-49
Conservation Act 1987, ss 17R, 17W, 17Z, 17ZC, 17ZG
Government Department
Leo Donnelly
Case number(s):
Issue date:

The Ngapunatoru Plateau is an identified aircraft landing site on a glacier in the Darran Remote Setting in the Fiordland National Park.[1]  There is a strong tourist demand for scenic aircraft landings at glacier sites, and this demand has been accentuated in recent years due to record tourism growth. The Fiordland National Park Management Plan (the Plan) prescribes limits to the number of aircraft landings that can occur at the Ngapunatoru Plateau on a daily and annual basis. An aircraft cannot land within the Park unless it has been issued with a concession (permission) for that purpose.

To address the growing tourist demand for scenic aircraft landings, in February 2016 the Department of Conservation decided to ‘trial’ raising the daily aircraft landing limits on the Ngapunatoru Plateau. On 8 March 2017, Federated Mountain Clubs made a complaint to me about the Department’s decision.

Based on the information before me, I have formed the opinion that the Department’s decision was unreasonable, and aspects of this decision appear to have been contrary to law.

In my opinion, the Department has a statutory responsibility to administer the Fiordland National Park in accordance with its management plan. This means implementing, managing and adhering to the aircraft landing limits for the Ngapunatoru Plateau as set out in that Plan.

The Department is also required to ensure all relevant statutory provisions are followed when changes to the content of a management plan are sought.

I recommend that the Department: cancel its decision to raise the daily aircraft landing limits on the Ngapunatoru Plateau; take steps to ensure the existing concessions become consistent with the management plan’s aircraft landing limits for the Ngapunatoru Plateau; and formulate a strategy for the allocation of limited aircraft landing opportunities at the Ngapunatoru Plateau.

[1]     Also known as the Ngapunatoru Ice Plateau, and the Mt Tutoko Glacier.

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