Some 40 years ago the Save Manapouri campaign Save Fiordland Sign - outside Te Anaubegan with a meeting in Te Anau. Protecting Lake Manapouri from being raised and operated as a hydro lake and the lake shore forest inundated involved the biggest public mobilisation for the environment New Zealand had ever seen.
Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau together with the rest of Fiordland National Park, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, Aspiring, Westland/Tai Poutini National Parks and conservation land in between are now all part of the Te Wāhi Pounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. In 1991 as a result of a joint nomination by the New Zealand Government and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu UNESCO recognised the landscapes, glaciated landforms and evolutionary history, and plants and wildlife of the South West as having outstanding universal value. It is one of only 188 sites worldwide whose natural values UNESCO has recognised in this way.
We need a similar public mobilisation in 2012 to protect the South West World Heritage Area from Riverstone Holdings Ltd logging thousands of beech trees in Snowdon Forest for its proposed monorail, and from Milford Dart Ltd mining Fiordland National Park to construct its proposed Hollyford tunnel and a huge waste rock stack beside the Hollyford River.
The inaugural meeting of the Save Fiordland Society in a lakefront hotel at Te Anau on Sunday 15 July was an encouraging step towards such a mobilisation. A wide range of people came – tourism operators, outdoor enthusiasts, local business people, conservationists and Southland residents. Those attending understood that sustainable tourism is about people experiencing and enjoying nature first hand, staying a while rather than speeding through. Eminent botanist Sir Alan Mark who was a leading voice in the campaign to save Manapouri is patron of the Save Fiordland Society.
With most lowland streams not fit for fishing or swimming, many lowland lakes heavily polluted and our “clean and green” image is entirely mythical in relation to lowland water quality. We rely on the vast and wild landscapes of Fiordland National Park and South West New Zealand to maintain any integrity for our 100% Pure brand and our billion dollar marketing brand.