Awful DOC concept for Oparara Basin

The Department of Conversation have a concept plan to ruin the marvellous and remote Oparara Basin near Karamea, about has far north up the West Coast that you can go.

Amongst the bush along the Oparara River are some fantastic limestone formations, including caves and the Oparara Arch.



RNZ: DOC’s ‘Moa Town’ plan doesn’t fly with conservationists

A 35 million year old West Coast limestone cave system could be turned into a tourism and selfie hot spot with light shows and artificial moas if a government plan goes ahead.

For a million years the Oparara River system near Karamea has sculpted the limestone basin into a complex web of caves, arches and channels described by the Department of Conservation (DOC) as one of the finest features of the Kahurangi National Park.

Unique ferns and algae live around the arches and cave entrances and it is home to the rare short tailed bat, the giant land snail, the whio/blue duck and is a sanctuary for the great spotted kiwi.

DOC and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have been developing the plan for the Basin.

It outlines the potential to brand Karamea as “Moa Town” and use a giant moa installation to attract visitors and make the Oparara Basin a site for selfies and Instagrammers.

Nuts. By all means build a visitor centre in Karamea with all the lights and model moas they like.

But keep the artificial commercial crap out of the bush, out of the caves and away from the arches.

The plan includes developing a lost world of moa and giant haast eagles, positioning them as “new products” for the West Coast.

The department would not be interviewed on the matter, but in a statement said the plan was only a concept and consultation would be carried out before it moved ahead.

“The concept involves immersing visitors in the natural and prehistoric world of the natural features of the Oparara Basin … and conveying key conservation messages around the species and limestone formations accessible to the public.”

The department said if the plan was accepted for feasibility it would require benefit testing, costing, discussion with key interest groups and alignment with statutory planning documents and an Assessment of Environmental Effects would also be required.

It said the Basin is robust and the department is very mindful of its outstanding features, and the department “has been under absolutely no pressure to develop the Oparara Basin.”

So they should throw the idea out. Not surprisingly there is opposition – and if this dumb plan cranks up I’ll happily join the protesters in opposing ruining a unique part of wild New Zealand.

Even the track in to the arches is a great West Coast experience – as it is.


Converting that into  a WIFI supplied asphalt walkway would be horrible. There are plenty of easy access options already catered for.


Leave the Oparara Arch as close to natural as possible.

There are cool caves on the area as well.


I think that’s one of the spiders mentioned here: “The genus has only one species, Spelungula cavernicola, or the Nelson cave spider, which is endemic to New Zealand. It is New Zealand’s largest known spider in terms of leg span (13 –15 cm) and it has a body length of 2.4 centimetres (0.94 in).”

Professional photographer Neil Silverwood – a member of the New Zealand Speleological Society, which represents cavers – said the department’s desire to develop the area for tourism was at odds with its conservation role.

He said the Box Canyon Cave was a hotspot for the protected spelungula spider, which he said was one of the reasons people visited the caves.

“They don’t want to go there and see a ‘creepy crawly light show’, it’s just mad, and those spiders are incredibly rare.”

Mr Silverwood said the concept being developed was far removed from the West Coast’s new tourism slogan “untamed natural wilderness”.

So leave Oparara  as untamed as possible.

Karamea website on the Oparara Basin.

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  1. A favourite spot from my time on the Coast. It has been well developed already and I’d hate to see it commercialised.

  2. Pickled Possum

     /  May 16, 2017

    Another plastic fantastic scheme from unŕealistic plastic people. Could this be the beginnings of a nz disney land. How many of nz natural phenomens must we destroy before we get the picture and leave nature to herself. Give me strength otherwise beam me up scotty.

  3. Oh jeeeeezzzz, the ‘ad agency’, marketing & ‘promo’ people have got their hands on our conservation estate!

    They’ll be out searching for sponsors now … What products go with Moas and Caves …