Home' Greymouth Star : January 21st 2019 Contents Greymouth Star
ircraft landings in the Fiordland
National Park continue to create
headaches for the Department of
In April last year, the department
(DOC) was told by Ombudsman L eo Donnelly
it had acted unreasonably by concocting a way for
helicopter operators to bypass landing limits —
by thousands of landings a year — on the park’s
Ngapunatoru Plateau. Donnelly suggested a DOC
trial, through which extra landings were granted, was
DOC was ordered to cancel the “trial” and to create
a new way to fairly allocate landings that complied
with the park’s management plan. It was meant to
do so within 60 working days. But as the country sits
in peak tourist season, the department confirms to
Newsroom it is yet to design a new system and the
landings still don’t comply with the plan.
This news comes to light after a departmental
u-turn over heli-hikes to picturesque Mount Titiroa
in Fiordland. Also, DOC has raised the ire of aircraft
operators by scrapping a supplementary pool of about
2500 extra landings at Milford’s airport.
The Fiordland National Park management plan
limits landings at Ngapunatoru to 500 a year, by up
to five operators. Between them, those operators can
land on the glacier up to 10 times a day. But under
the DOC “trial”, seven operators were each allowed
to land up to 10 times daily. Milford Helicopters was
given 2000 landings a year — four times what the
park plan allows for all operators.
Correspondence between DOC and the
Ombudsman, released under the Official Information
Act, shows the Ngapunatoru “trial” was officially
cancelled in June last year.
On June 5, DOC’s director of planning, permissions
and land, Marie Long, tasked one of her managers
to design a new allocation process. A report was
expected to be produced by July 4. But a week before
that deadline, DOC’s Andrew Baucke, standing in for
Ms Long while she was on study leave, advised the
Ombudsman it had hit a snag.
Section 4 of the Conser vation Act says it must give
effect to the Treaty of Waitangi. Baucke: “Ngai Tahu
Tourism is one of the (Ngapunatoru) operators and
Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu is DOC’s treaty partner.”
DOC needed to consult with Ngai Tahu and better
understand its section 4 obligations, regarding the
new allocation process.
Mr Baucke was also keeping a close eye on a
Supreme Court case, centred on section 4, taken by
the Ngai Tai ki Tamaki Tribal Trust. Te Runanga o
Ngai Tahu was given leave to inter vene in the case,
after claiming its mana whenua, and role as kaitiaki in
its rohe, as well as its wider commercial, financial and
reputational interests, would be directly affected by
The decision, released last month, found the
department erred by granting concessions to Fullers
Group and Motutapu Island Restoration Trust for
commercial tours of Rangitoto and Motutapu islands.
The leading authority regarding section 4 is a Court
of Appeal decision, known as the Whales case, about
a potential competitor for Ngai Tahu’s commercial
whale watching business off the Kaikoura coast.
Baucke told the Ombudsman’s office in June: “DOC
needs to tread cautiously. Unsurprisingly, DOC is
liaising closely with the Crown Law Office.” (Not
surprisingly, DOC has not released its legal team’s
advice sent to the Ombudsman’s office).
DOC initially requested an extension, to July 20,
to the Ombudsman’s deadlines. But it was only
in October that a meeting with Ngai Tahu was
scheduled. But that meeting was cancelled after two
DOC workers died in a Wanaka helicopter crash in
The Ombudsman’s report was prompted by a
complaint by Federated Mountain Clubs. Its
president, Peter Wilson, told Newsroom that DOC
has to implement the Ombudsman’s rulings, because
that is what it has been ordered to do.
“They have to get a wriggle-on,” he says. “ We
understand that it ’s hard, but they have to do it.”
Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu chief executive Arihia
Bennett says in a statement it wanted to resolve the
landing issues “as soon as possible”.
“However, considering the landmark Ngai
Tai appeal decision from the Supreme Court in
December 2018, there are broader issues for us to
consider as an iwi first. ”
DOC’s director of the southern South Island, Aaron
Fleming, confirmed DOC had now met Ngai Tahu
“and all affected parties” and it wants to implement
the Ombudsman’s recommendations as soon as
“ To make the number of landings consistent with
the plan requires running an allocation process
that is still being designed,” he says. “It ’s a complex
matter that needs some deep thinking and involves
consultation with all parties. ”
Mr Wilson gave DOC and aircraft operators
credit for dealing with another issue — heli-
hikes to remote Mount Titiroa advertised in
direct conflict with the Fiordland National Park’s
management plan. After a complaint by FMC, the
subject of a Newsroom story, concessions held by
three walking companies were changed, with their
consent, to change their practices related to Mount
“It’s a really good resolution,” Mr Wilson said.
“Something was identified, and while DOC were
probably a little bit slow in getting onto it, and
needed a bit of nagging, they have done the right
thing and the operators have done the right thing,
In September — the month FMC complained
about the Mount Titiroa heli-hikes — DOC told
Milford airport users that it was cancelling its
supplementary landing pool, which operators could
apply for once they had used 80% of their allocation.
Lloyd Matheson, operations manager of Southern
Lakes Helicopters, is president of Aviation New
Zealand and a member of the Q ueenstown-Milford
User Group. He told Newsroom that in the wake of
the Ombudsman’s ruling it appears DOC is running
Mr Fleming said the supplementary pool was
exhausted for the first time last year. It had become
more difficult to manage and was disadvantaging
some operators, he says.
Concessionaires can re-assign unused landings
to other operators, with DOC’s approval. “ These
measures give operators the opportunity to manage
their own activities within the landing limits,” he said.
Operators have raised concerns. Despite the
pool being scrapped from January 1, DOC is
now undertaking an “engagement period” which
finishes on March 29. After this date, DOC would
“reconsider its decision”, F leming said.
“Any solution needs to be within the rules of the
Fiordland National Park Management Plan.”
DOC has started internal planning for a review of
the management plan which is expected to take three
to four years.
This story first appeared on Newsroom (www.
newsroom.co.nz) and is reproduced here with
8 - Monday, January 21, 2019
PICTURE: Getty Images
The Ngapunatoru Plateau, in Fiordland’s Darran Mountains, is also known as the Mount Tutoko Glacier.
Illegal heli landings continue
The Department of Conservation is not enforcing helicopter limits on a remote Fiordland glacier, nine
months after a scathing Ombudsman report. DAVID WILLIAMS of Newsroom reports.
toll up to 79
A blast at a petrol pipeline in Mexico
that killed at least 79 people has put
renewed attention on the government ’s
strategy to stop fuel theft, with some
relatives saying fuel shortages stemming
from the plan led people to risk their
Fuel thieves punctured the Tula-
Tuxpan pipeline a few miles from one
of Mexico’s main refineries on Friday.
Up to 800 people flocked to fill plastic
containers from the 7m petrol geyser
that ensued, officials say. A couple of
hours later, it exploded.
Mexican Health Minister Jorge
Alcocer said overnight the number of
dead in the incident had risen to 79
Half a dozen people said their relatives
went to the leaking duct in Tlahuelilpan
district in Hidalgo State because they
struggled to find fuel elsewhere and were
desperate to fill up cars to get to work or
run their farms.
“A lot of innocent people came here,
perhaps their car didn’t have enough
fuel for tomorrow, and they said I’m
just going to go for a few litres,” farmer
Isidoro Velasco, 51, said. He was waiting
for news of his nephew Mario Hidalgo,
who he believed likely dead. Hidalgo
turned 34 on Saturday.
Late last month, President Andres
Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a
programme to shut down an illegal fuel
distribution network that siphons off
about $3 billion worth of fuel annually
from State oil firm Pemex.
The plan, which involves shutting off
pipelines compromised by gangs who
fit valves to drain fuel, led to widespread
fuel shortages in central Mexico in
January, including in Hidalgo, to the
north of Mexico City.
On Saturday, most fuel stations in
Tlahuelilpan were closed.
Polls show the measures have until
now enjoyed fairly broad public support,
despite the difficulties and long lines at
ser vice stations.
The disaster in Tlahuelilpan, however,
has brought renewed scrutiny of the
strategy. Lopez Obrador has faced
repeated questions about the disaster,
demanding he explain why soldiers
deployed to guard the duct did not chase
people away from the leak and how
quickly supplies to the duct were cut
after Pemex detected the leak.
Pemex chief executive Octavio Romero
said a valve had been closed at the
pipeline once a drop in pressure from
the leak had been noted, but he did not
say at what time that happened. Fuel
spurted from the pipeline for about two
hours before it exploded, with no visible
loss of pressure. — Reuters
Queensland outback town breaks heat record
Queensland’s most famous town
has smashed another heat record,
with the mercury topping 45degC
for a ninth day in a row at Birdsville.
While it is nowhere near the highest
maximum temperature of 49.5degC
recorded in 1972, the string of nine
days at or above 45degC is a new
benchmark for the outback town.
Birdsville Hotel assistant manager
Darren Collins says it has been
relentless but it was keeping the
pub busy as locals came in for some
“It’s like a fan forced oven straight
off the desert. I started work at
6am and it was already 36degC. It’s
something we’re used to out here but
this is tough,” he said yesterday.
“There’s a breeze up at the moment
and that just adds another level to it.
Part of the road is melting a little and
you just know it ’s going to do you
damage if you spend too much time
out there. ”
At 2.25pm the tiny town was
sweltering at 45.7degC.
There is no end in sight to the
current heatwave, which could roll
on for the next week, the Bureau of
“ It is quite
meteorologist Chris Joseph said.
The previous record was set in 2013
when the mercury topped 45degC
for six days in a row.
Before that, the longest spell above
45degC was five, days recorded in
1972, 1981 and 2004.
The succession of hot days has been
caused by a stagnant low-pressure
trough, perched over parts of south-
western Queensland, Joseph said.
Four arrests over Londonderry car bomb
Londonderry (Northern Ireland)
Four men have been arrested over
a car bomb attack in Northern
Ireland’s Londonderry and police
are looking into whether the New
IRA militant group was responsible,
Two men in their 20s were
detained hours after the explosion
on Saturday evening outside the
city’s courthouse. Two other men
aged 34 and 42 were arrested in the
city overnight. No one was injured
by the blast.
“Fortunately it didn’t kill anybody
but clearly it was a very significant
attempt to kill people here in
this community,” Assistant Chief
Constable Mark Hamilton told a
Hamilton said the main focus of
the investigation was on the New
IRA, one of a small number of
groups opposed to a 1998 peace
deal that largely ended three
decades of violence in the British-
run province. They have carried out
sporadic attacks in recent years.
Police in Northern Ireland and
European Union member Ireland
have warned that a return to a
hard border between the two after
Brexit, complete with customs and
other checks, could be a target for
Politicians from all sides —
including Sinn Fein, the former
political wing of the nationalist Irish
Republican Army — condemned
“S hame on you. Shame on you
and stop,” Mary Lou McDonald,
leader of Sinn Fein, which signed
the peace agreement, said. She told
BBC Northern Ireland the blast
was an “outrageous attack”.
The Northern Ireland police force
said it was given only minutes to
evacuate children and hundreds of
hotel guests before the explosion
of what they described as a highly
unstable, crude device that could
have detonated at any time.
Prince Philip seen at
wheel of new Landrover
Prince Philip has apparently been
pictured driving a new Landrover just 48
hours after his dramatic collision with a
car carrying two women and a baby.
Images published on Saturday appear
to show Philip, wearing dark glasses
and no seatbelt, back behind the wheel
of a new Freelander on the Queen’s
Buckingham Palace did not
immediately comment on the images.
The 97-year-old reportedly said, “I’m
such a fool” after being pulled from his
wrecked Freelander on Thursday after it
flipped on its side following a collision
with a Kia close to Sandringham.
The two women inside the Kia were
hurt in the collision but the nine-month-
old baby boy was unharmed, police said.
The Q ueen’s transport manager was
seen at Sandringham on Friday as a new
Freelander was delivered to the royal
A palace spokeswoman said on Friday
that Philip had exchanged “well-wishes”
with the injured women and appeared to
have no lasting problems following the
A source said the Duke of Edinburgh’s
routine in coming days would continue
Retired NHS worker Victoria Warne
told The Sun she spoke to the duke as
she looked after the injured occupants of
“The passenger from the other car told
me, ‘I always wanted to meet a royal —
but not this way’, ” the 72-year-old from
She said Philip asked about the welfare
of the people involved in the crash.
“I told him the baby was fine — but we
thought the passenger had broken her
arm,” she said. “ He looked so worried
and told me, ‘I’m such a fool’. ”
Norfolk police said two women — the
28-year-old Kia driver, who suffered cuts
to her knee, and a 45-year-old passenger
who broke a wrist — were treated at
the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s
Lynn that day and discharged.
Victoria Warne’s 75-year-old husband
Roy helped the stricken Philip out of his
He told The Sun that Philip, who
was left very shocked by the accident,
asked if everybody was all right and was
overheard telling police he had been
“dazzled by the sun”.
Prince Philip was examined at hospital
on doctor’s advice, but a check-up
found no injuries of concern, a palace
spokeswoman has said.— PA
May plans next move as Brexit delay looms
As Prime Minister Theresa
May prepares her next move in
Britain’s deadlocked Brexit battle,
a senior opposition politician says
it is unlikely the United Kingdom
would leave the European Union as
scheduled on March 29.
A government minister, however,
warned that failure to deliver on
Brexit would betray voters and
unleash a “political tsunami”.
May is due to present parliament
with a revised Brexit plan early
tomorrow after the divorce deal
she had struck with the EU was
rejected by MPs last week.
With just over two months until
Britain is due to leave the bloc,
some members of parliament
are pushing for the UK to delay
its departure until the country’s
divided politicians can agree on a
way for ward.
Labour Party Brexit spokesman
Keir Starmer said “it ’s inevitable”
Britain would have to ask the EU
to extend the two-year countdown
to exit which ends on March 29.
“ March 29 is 68 days away,”
Starmer said overnight. “ We are
absolutely not prepared for it. It
would be catastrophic.”
May’s government is split between
ministers who think a disorderly
departure must be avoided at all
costs and Brexit-backers who
believe it would be preferable to
delaying or reversing Brexit.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic
Raab, who quit the government
in opposition to May ’s agreement
with the EU, said a no-deal Brexit
would have “short-term risks” but
they would be “manageable”. — AP
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