Kiwiosities: Our National Parks

The gift of the summits of Mt Tongariro to the nation by Te Heu Heu Tukino IV in 1887, initiated New Zealand’s magnificent series of national parks. A network of parks and reserves now protects around 33% of New Zealand’s land area. These include 14 national parks, with the prospect of more as land once held for other Government uses is reassessed against the national park criteria. The test of national-park values is ‘land containing scenery of such distinctive quality, or natural features or ecological systems so important, scientifically, that their preservation is in the national interest’.

The original gift of his ancestral mountain by the paramount chief of Tuwharetoa has been expanded into Tongariro National Park. The park has also been recognised internationally as a World Heritage Area along with south-west New Zealand (Te Wahi Pounamu) and the sub-Antarctic islands.

The largest park is Fiordland, established in 1952 and over 1,251,924 ha. Kahurangi National Park in north west Nelson, was formerly a forestry reserve, but in 1996 became the second largest national park at around 452,000 ha.

The 14th park, Rakiura, was created in 2002 and protects 85% of Stewart Island, also known as Rakiura. Altogether, there are more than three million hectares of national parks, nearly 170 forest and conservation parks covering a further 1.3 million hectares, and about 3500 reserves for scenic, nature, scientific and recreational purposes. A number of marine reserves and protected areas have also been created in recent years.

Excerpts from Kiwiosities, a book by Gordon Ell on the traditions and folklore of New Zealand.

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Gordon Ell, a former journalist and wildlife film-maker, is the author of many popular books about New Zealand's historic and natural heritage.