West Coast stewardship land reclassification

West Coast stewardship land reclassification

This is a once-in-a-generation change to the rules allowing (or preventing) access to huge areas of NZ’s wild places. 

The changes could also allow canyons and the surrounding areas to be mined, farmed and hydroelectricity projects to go ahead easily. 

PLEASE, spend 10 minutes, using our template, to tell the government to preserve access and protect the canyons you love.  Then tell your mates to do the same. 

Do it before 23 August!

The simplified history is that in 1987, when DOC was established, huge chunks of land which used to be administered by other government agencies were transferred to DOC, and classified as “Stewardship Land”.

The idea was, that each bit of land would be assessed, then reclassified into National Park, Conservation Park, other types of public land or disposed of (sold).  Finally, after decades of inaction, all the Stewardship land in the Western South Island  is being reclassified.

644,000 Hectares worth: That is abouty 15 times the size of Paparoa National Park, or about 4 times the size of Rakiura / Stewart Island.

In June 2022, DOC released the recommendations, and invited submissions.


The panels recommend the lands containing most of the canyons northeast of the Hokitika River (such as Diedrichs, Muriel, Dorothy, Wanihinihi, Carew and Griffin) become part of Tarahanga e Toru Historic reserve. It is likely that the reserve would be vested in Ngāi Tahu. Vesting means Ngāi Tahu would be the administering body under the Reserves Act 1977

Section 58 of the Act allows the administering body to restrict access, erect buildings, charge for access, prohibit access and “do such other things as may be considers nessecary….”

Section 58A of the Act allows the administering body to grant a licence or lease to another entity; which provides a legal avenue for establishing hydro-electricity schemes.

Also, Historic reserves do not appear on Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1911. This, in conjuntion with the powers of the Reserves Act mean that the administering body can authorise mines to be built. 

(Additionally, the Mikonui catchment canyons (Red Granite Creek, Dickson, Tuke) are all proposed for Conservation Park,  which is a classification also not on Schedule 4, which means they can be mined)

Clearly, this is not in the interests of Canyoners, and we have submitted that the land should be classified in a manner that legally ensures that recreational access is provided for and that the canyons are preserved in their natural state for everyone to enjoy. 

NZCA has lodged a submission with DOC on the recommendations. (Read our submission here)

We supported Federated Mountain Club’s detailed submission, and provided specific input regarding the areas of specific interest to canyoners. 

We were very concerned that evidence from Doc’s recommendations indicated to us that the values of recreational canyoning had not been considered at all. 

There has been a huge response from across recreational and conservation groups: as we say, this is a game-changing, once in a generation moment for our wild lands.

Federated Mountain Clubs has made a detailed submission, and provided a summary/how to submit resource for those wanting to understand this complex process. 

Whitewater NZ has provided a fantastic summary of the proposals, issues and its reccomendations from a paddlers’ perspective. WWNZ have also provided a submission template for you to use. 

Forest & Bird has set up a quick submission form, to allow people with little time to add thier voice.