• Nick Smith

Conservation Minister Nick Smith, in ceremony at Pakihiroa Station, today signed agreements, which include a conservation covenant and an easement, with Te Runanga O Ngati Porou which will settle a long standing dispute about public access to Mt Hikurangi.

"These are significant agreements that have taken nearly a decade to conclude. The agreement protects Ngati Porou's farming interests as well as ensuring public access to Mt Hikurangi. The agreements recognise the ownership rights of Ngati Porou and the immense spiritual significance of the mountain to them. I am particularly pleased that we have been able to resolve this issue prior to the millennium celebrations on the mountain."

The public will be able to access Mt Hikurangi via a public walkway defined under the New Zealand Walkways Act which passes through Pakihiroa Station to Mt Hikurangi. The summit area of Mt Hikurangi will be protected by a covenant to formally protect the natural character and ecological values, while also recognising the cultural significance of the mountain.

"This arrangement means that the public of New Zealand will have certainty about ongoing access to Hikurangi and will be able to plan and enjoy the experience of tramping through the farm to reach the summit and experience the spirituality of this taonga of Ngati Porou."

As was anticipated in 1990, the public walkway contains similar provisions to the many other walkways registered under the Walkways Act. This means that the walkway may be closed for a reasonable period during the lambing season or at other times when public access might unduly adversely affect normal farming operations. The arrangements also provide for this sacred area to be closed on certain restricted days for spiritual, cultural, traditional or religious purposes.

"The boundaries of the covenanted area and the public walkway will be surveyed for registration on the respective land titles before the New Year."