14 May 2016

DoC backs down on OIA chopper info charge

1:36 pm on 14 May 2016

The Department of Conservation has backed down on its decision to charge a mountaineering club $1600 for an Official Information Act (OIA) request.

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DoC backs down on chopper information charge. Photo: 123 RF

The Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand (FMC), which represent climbers and trampers, requested information from the department on why it was proposing to increase daily helicopter landings on Mt Tutoko glacier from 14 to 80 a day.

The group, which has carried out volunteer work for the Department of Conservation (DoC) for years, was originally told it would have to pay a $1600 fee - the cost of what the department estimated at 19 hours of work to collate the information.

The department has now dropped the charge and while FMC president Peter Wilson was pleased common sense had prevailed, he said the fight was not over.

The issue of why DoC overrode its own management plan to increase the number of helicopter landings still needed to be resolved, he said.

The glacier overlooking Milford Sound.

The glacier overlooking Milford Sound Photo: SUPPLIED/Mark Watson

Under the existing management plan for the Fiordland National Park eight helicopter companies have permission to take tourists up to the remote and magnificent glacier.

Between them they are only allowed to do so 14 times a day, but DoC wants to allow each operator 10 trips a day.

The FMC and the Alpine Club have said the increase to 160 daily overflights in the area would spoil the integrity of the area, and was potentially hazardous.

Mr Wilson said some FMC members who had donated to help pay the Official Information Act fee may want their money back, and the group would make sure that happened.

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