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Under discussion . . . A decision by the Supreme Court over Treaty obligations by the Department of Conservation temporarily halted work on the draft management plan for the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, but the department is now back analysing submissions and consulting Ngai Tahu over the plan. PHOTO: COURIER FILES

by Greta Yeoman

The Department of Conservation is continuing to meet Ngai Tahu representatives, three months after it halted work on the draft Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park plan.

The department hit “pause” on the draft plan in February after a landmark Supreme Court decision between Ngai Tai and the department.

The Auckland iwi (Ngai Tai) had argued the Department of Conservation did not properly “give effect” to section 4 of the Conservation Act when granting concessions for commercial activities on Motutapu and Rangitoto.

Section 4 of the act relates to principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Supreme Court found that decisions to grant concessions to third parties would need to include asking whether the concession opportunities should be preserved for the economic benefit of Ngai Tai and whether there was any basis for the preferential grant of concessions to Ngai Tai.

Because of this ruling, Doc had halted its work on the Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini national park management plans to consider the implications.

“This usually takes some time for a review of this size, due the substantial nature of many of the submissions.”

Doc planning, permissions and land director Marie Long said it was important to understand what the decision meant for the government department and its Treaty partners before further progress was made on the report.

She told The Courier this week that department staff had held “some preliminary high level discussions” with Ngai Tahu and were planning more.

Staff were also analysing the more than 2000 submissions received in response to the plan for any “trending views”.

“This usually takes some time for a review of this size, due the substantial nature of many of the submissions.”

Ms Long said the department would continue to meet Ngai Tahu, as well as speaking to submitters, conservation boards and the New Zealand Conservation Authority to clarify any points they have made and to keep them informed of any changes to the process as decisions are made.

She said further meetings with Ngai Tahu were in the works.

“Until then there is not much we can update you on.”