The Royal Society Of New Zealand And National Parks
1. Now that a National Parks Authority has been established (April. 1953) under the National Parks Act of 1953, and the Royal Society is represented thereon by the President, it will be desirable that the Society do all in its power to assist the Authority and the Boards of the five National Parks—Tongariro, Egmont, Abel Tasman. Arthur Pass and Sounds-
Fiordland, referred to in the Act. In particular the Society might be expected to provide guidance regarding the scientific features of whatever policy or policies of development are adopted in connection with these five National Parks. As it is unlikely that the scientific aspects of any Park can be considered apart from other aspects, the Society's guidance must be expected to extend beyond the scientific field, though this must be its primary interest.
2. If it is agreed that the Royal Society has a responsibility associated with National Parks, then some early consideration should be given to defining the nature and extent of this responsibility. The National Parks Authority and the Boards are charged with the formulation and execution of a scheme for the preservation and development appropriate to each of the National Parks. Their powers and responsibilities are set out in the 1953 Act, and it would seem that the Royal Society could fill a valuable role by providing service on the scientific aspects of any conservation or development scheme. The terms of the Act make provision for the Authority and the Boards to establish Committees, employ staff, and make payments in order to carry out their allocated functions.
3. In order to focus attention on what help the Society can provide, the Tongariro National Park might be selected for consideration. In view of what has already happened there, and also by the references made to it in the Act, it is obvious that the Tongariro National Park Board's policy of development will be dominated by preservation and recreational interests. It therefore seems desirable that a policy for scientific development should early be formulated to work in harmoniously with the broader plan of development which the Board will inaugurate.
4. Protection and definition of boundaries are a primary requirement of any National Park, and the Tongariro National Park is in need of attention in this respect. Its 149,383 acres, plus some 945 acres in three isolated blocks, lie within irregular boundaries which for the most part can only be ascertained by reference to a map. On the spot there are very few marks to indicate the boundaries of the Park. Two main highways adjoin or intersect the Park, and other roads are planned. The task of even defining the boundaries by a series of beacon posts is a formidably costly one, and still more so will be the cost of erecting the fencing which will be necessary for proper preservation. The perimeter of the Park is some miles in length and though natural features and adjoining owners at present do provide some protection, provision of fencing over very rough terrain will inevitably prove very costly. There are some sections of the perimeter where proper protection by fencing will be imperative. This reference to fencing and definition of boundaries is only one of the tasks facing the Authority and the Board and shows the need for preparation of a long-term plan of development extending over many years to attain the objective of a National Park properly established. As the Board will be expected to do its tasks on meagre funds the rate of progress seems likely to be inevitably slow.
5. It is reasonable to anticipate that the Authority and the Park Board will endeavour to form a picture of what the Park will be like when fully developed and then with the help of meagre funds draw up a long-term plan to attain to this objective. The scientific interest of the Park should be an important part of this plan. The question therefore arises as to whether these scientific interests are actually known. If not, then, should not an attempt be made to define them, so that a plan for attaining a scientific objective for the Park be formulated?
Should the Society call upon botanists, zoologists, geologists, and physicists, as the principal groups concerned, to undertake a task which would involve such matters as:
Demarcation of localities which should at once be strictly protected and reserved for scientific or historical purposes.
Planning for general scientific studies which might embrace extensive portions or the whole of the Park area.
Planning of selected areas designed to provide educative material for visitors to the Park.
In 1908 Dr. Leonard Cockayne carried out a detailed ecological study of the then Tongariro National Park, in which he dealt with other scientific matters not of a botanical nature. Professor R. Speight contributed a chapter dealing with the geology of the area.
6. The Tongariro National Park is probably sufficiently rich in scientific features of a botanical, zoological, and geological nature to merit consideration being given to the appointment of a residential scientific curator. The holder of this position could undertake investigations in his own particular field, guide other scientists working in the area, and be available to advise the Authority and the Park Board on matters concerned with the development of the Park.
7. As there is a real need for educating public opinion in the proper appreciation of National Parks, and as one of the ways of doing this is by means of arousing scientific interest more widely among visitors, the Society might well give active support to the provision of areas laid out in a way which would serve scenic, artistic and scientific purposes.
8. As the five National Parks are located in districts where Branches of the Royal Society are established, should each Branch be asked to devote some constructive attention to the scientific aspects of the National Park located in its district and assist the Park Board accordingly?
5th May, 1953.
F. R. Callaghan.