Access to the Waiatoto


Some months ago the Otago conservancy of DOC released their proposed Mt Aspiring National Park Management Plan. It is due to be approved by the NZ Conservation Authority and assuming nothing surprising happens, Whitewater NZ has had a significant win by retaining aerial access to Bonar Flats on the Waiatoto River. This is the result of much hard work by Tony Ward-Holmes, Hugh Canard, Craig Adams, Glenn Murdoch, Maree Baker and others.

DOC’s original proposal was for no aerial access to the Waiatoto within the national park at all, despite their lack of knowledge of who used or valued that landing site. Then after protests from paddlers, as a compromise they suggested aerial access to Drake Flat, which is below the first half-day warm-up paddling and is lower than much of the best scenery including any views of Mt Aspiring itself. The next suggestion was for access to Bonar Flats, but only between mid-October and December, and for a maximum of 7 people.

It was only after an extensive submission (PDF, 574KB) and evidence presented at the hearing that a more reasonable result was obtained, allowing trips of up to 15 people over all the warm half of the year. Whitewater NZ is pleased with the result and that there has been recognition of user groups other that just trampers and hunters. Access to other rivers in what DOC has classified as Remote Zone (e.g. the Burke) is still restricted, although one-off permits may be granted by DOC. Whitewater NZ would like to hear from anyone applying for a one-off permit for aerial access to go paddling, whether successful or not.