22 Oct 2013

Fiordland whitebaiters fight to keep huts

7:55 pm on 22 October 2013

A group of whitebaiters is battling the Department of Conservation to keep private huts on conservation land in Fiordland.

There are nine private huts used by whitebaiters at Big Bay on the border of the Southland and Westland regions.

One of the hut owners, Cliff King, says DoC is proposing to remove a hut if the owner dies or it is destroyed.

He says the Conservation Minister granted a 15-year lease only 10 months ago and now this threatens to over-ride that.

Mr King says the hut owners have fought hard to be allowed to be there and they abide by strict conditions to protect the environment around Big Bay. He says the huts are used by dozens of visitors every year, not just whitebaiters.

Lawyer for the whitebaiters Mai Chen says a draft conservation management strategy has been issued which includes phasing out private accommodation on conservation land.

But Ms Chen says the whitebaiters have fought hard to be allowed there. "I think the objection here is that having followed the rule of law, the goal posts are now being shifted."

Ms Chen says she hopes DoC will take into account the whitebaiters' huts when the final strategy is written.