National parks of New Zealand

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The national parks of New Zealand are 14 protected areas administered by the Department of Conservation[1] "for the benefit, use, and enjoyment of the public".[2] These are popular tourist destinations, with three-tenths of tourists visiting at least one national park during their stay in New Zealand.[3] Although the national parks contain some of New Zealand's most beautiful scenery, the first few established were all focused on mountain scenery. Since the 1980s the focus has been on developing a more diverse representation of New Zealand landscapes in the national parks.[4] New Zealand's national parks are all culturally significant; many also contain historic features.[5] Tongariro National Park, in particular, is one of 27 World Heritage Sites that is of both cultural and natural significance, while four of the South Island national parks form Te Wahipounamu, another World Heritage Site.


National Parks Act

The National Parks Act of 1980 was established in order to codify the purpose, governance and selection of national parks. It begins by establishing the definition of a national park:

It is hereby declared that the provisions of this Act shall have effect for the purpose of preserving in perpetuity as national parks, for their intrinsic worth and for the benefit, use, and enjoyment of the public, areas of New Zealand that contain scenery of such distinctive quality, ecological systems, or natural features so beautiful, unique, or scientifically important that their preservation is in the national interest.

National Parks Act 1980, Part 1, section 4, subsection 1[6]

The National Parks Act goes on to state that the public will have freedom of entry and access to the parks, though this is subject to restrictions to ensure the preservation of native plants and animals and the welfare of the parks in general. Access to specially protected areas (550 km²) constituted under the act is by permit only. Under the Act, national parks are to be maintained in their natual state as far as possible to retain their value as soil, water and forest conservation areas. Native plants and animals are to be preserved and introduced plants and animals removed if their presence interferes with the natural wildlife. Development in wilderness areas established under the act is restricted to foot tracks and huts used for wild animal control or scientific research.

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