The borders of this beautiful New Zealand park have been expanded by 158,000 acres (64,000 hectares), making it the largest addition of land to a national park in the nation’s history.
Kahurangi National Park is located on the northwestern coast of New Zealand and is known for its diverse landscapes of high plateaus, freshwater swamps, and coastal forests.
The news of the national park’s expansion, which now includes an area known as the Mōkihinui lands, was praised by national conservation groups who have been advocating for the national park to include the Mōkikinui River catchment.
The fight for the protection of the Mōkihinui River began in 2008 when Merdian Energy proposed a hydroelectric dam that would have completely fragmented and flooded part of the river and forest. Due to a large opposition campaign led by the conservation organization Forest & Bird, the development project was cancelled in 2012.
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The cancellation of the dam was a huge win for the organization, but they knew that their fight to protect the river was not over; the organization felt it was essential to advocate for the reclassification of the Mōkihinui River to conserve land as part of the Kahurangi national park.
“Keeping our wild rivers free from major development is important to New Zealanders,” says Forest & Bird regional manager Debs Martin. “The Mōkihinui, in particular, struck a chord because the area is such a stunning landscape, and ecologically important.”
According to Martin, development on the river would endanger several threatened bird species, long-tailed bats and a large population of native great spotted kiwi. The reclassification of the area will prevent another company from applying for permits for other projects.
The inclusion of Mōkihinui lands to Kahurangi National Park will be made official on April 11th, 2019, and will increase the size of the park by 14%. The addition of the river catchment will further diversify the national park, as it includes a grouping of geology, riverine habitat, vegetation, animal and plant life not seen elsewhere.
Conservation Minster Eugenie Sage announced the addition to Kahurangi National Park and stressed the importance of advocacy.
“A big thanks to the many New Zealanders and the Department of Conservation who spoke up for the river,” said Sage. “Today’s announcement is only possible because of that work and advocacy.”
“It is why our Government can now give the Mokihinui Gorge, and the surrounding lands, forests, and mountains the strong protection that comes with being part of a national park.”
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