November 15, 1999

Hobbits Not Welcome in Kahurangi National Park
Press Release

The Forest and Bird Protection Society is concerned that Frodo and his hairy hobbit friends with their attendant large film crews may severely damage sensitive landscapes in the Kahurangi National Park and Kepler Mire, an ancient string bog in Fiordland.

Forest and Bird's Southern Conservation Officer, Sue Maturin, said the Society opposed the Lord of the Rings being filmed in the internationally significant Kepler Mire and the glaciated karst country at Mt Owen in Kahurangi National Park.

The Society was responding to Conservation Minister Nick Smith, announcement yesterday that the filming of the movie has been granted consents to film in several areas of National Parks and Conservation land. These include 11 sites in Fiordland/Te Anau, 13 in Otago and 1 in Nelson.

Ms Maturin said the Society was disappointed to learn that the Minister has granted the entire concession. "The processing of the concession has been done in secret, it was not publicly advertised and neither the Nelson or Otago Conservation Boards were consulted."

Ms Maturin said the application has the potential to cause significant environmental damage within our national parks. "Filming in some areas will involve bringing 30 equipment trucks, 10 caravans, and up to 200 staff on to some sites for up to 9 days at a time.

"National parks are meant to be preserved as far as possible in their natural state and commercial concessions are supposed to avoid annoying other park users."

Ms Maturin said one of the sites at risk included the proposed RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance the "Kepler Mire" in the Te Anau Basin.

"This is an ancient string bog, which is made up of numerous ponds and long narrow pools separated by peat walls. The Mire is a very rare wetland type in the Southern Hemisphere, as string bogs are normally found in the Arctic."

Ms Maturin said that trampling by the actors and film crew could easily break down the peat walls and crush sensitive wetland plants. "Once damaged it is highly unlikely that the wetlands could be restored."

"Another site at risk is the internationally important glaciated karst country at Mt Owen, in Kahurangi National Park. Here there are areas of exposed marble, which are like fragile sculptures, sensitive alpine herbfields and wetlands."

"Sensitive areas of national parks should not be used for activities which could damage the qualities for which they have been protected," concluded Ms Maturin.