Karamea's Oparara Arches upgrades for a sustainable future


The Tai Poutini West Coast Economic Action Plan 2017 proposed that Tourism West Coast be the lead agency to manage a Feasibility Study and Business Case into assessing the potential of the Oparara Basin.

The Oparara Arches are a magnificent natural attraction that was identified by Tourism West Coast as one of the six iconic places for visitors to the Coast.

The six iconic places identified are Haast, Franz Josef, Hokitika Gorge, Lake Brunner, Punakaiki and the Oparara Arches. Tourism West Coast recognise that people who visit these locations expect to witness and enjoy unspoilt natural features, and preserving the integrity and natural beauty of these special environments is critical when creating visitor infrastructure in these locations.

Tourism West Coast appointed TRC Tourism Consultants who completed a feasibility and business case in July 2018. Considering the sensitive conservation values of the Oparara, they recommended a series of improvements to visitor infrastructure and services to enhance the visitor experience whilst protecting the significant values of the Oparara.

Tourism West Coast consulted with all key stakeholders identified in the TRC report and have put together a proposal that includes some of their recommendations. The proposal is for ‘The development and restoration of the Oparara Basin Delivering a world-class visitor experience whilst preserving the environment for future generations’.

The proposal includes priority actions to support improved safety, security of existing infrastructure, preservation of the natural environment, and an improved visitor experience.

Tourism West Coast CEO Jim Little says, “We are determined to safeguard the future of this natural attraction by upgrading the infrastructure that will help preserve it and to tell the story of the Oparara to enhance the visitor experience in appreciating and understanding the unique history and biodiversity of this special place”. Tourism West Coast is sensitive of the need to ensure a managed growth of visitors from those countries that will seriously appreciate what the Oparara Basin represents.

The recommended improvements include an upgrade of the access road to improve safety (which does not include sealing the road); safety improvements and site preservation work on the Oparara Arch track; a short extension to the Oparara track through the Arch that will improve the visitor experience and safeguard the environment by giving visitors a prescribed track to walk on; a safety rail on the approach to the Moria Gate; an improved electronic security system to safeguard the Honeycomb Cave Special Area; an improved viewing experience at the Mirror Tarn to safeguard the lake edge; the construction of a short loop track from the Mirror Tarn back to the car park to improve visitor safety; and, the telling of the Oparara Story to enhance the visitor experience and understanding of the biodiversity of this special place.

The proposal will be subject to an Assessment of Environmental Effects, which examines the proposed activity and how it will impact the environment in the area. This includes looking at the cultural values, the stability of the landforms, any legislative compliance required, and a full assessment against the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan and the West Coast Conservation Management Strategy policy provisions.

It is acknowledged the management stays with the Department of Conservation and the Oparara Valley Trust remain strong advocates for the protection of the valley and safety of visitors, and the sustainability of the assets.

(10 September 2018)