Fiordland is often lauded as a beautifully preserved natural paradise - but that didn’t just happen by accident. Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the Fiordland Marine Guardians at a dinner in Invercargill on Wednesday night.
Guardians of the fiords
The group, which includes fishers, tourism operators, environmentalists, marine scientists, community representatives and tangata whenua, was one of the first in New Zealand to use the collaborative process. Over the past 10 years the Guardians have provided expert advice on a range of local environmental issues, ranging from environmental monitoring to biosecurity.
Dr Smith said of their contribution to the local environment, “One of the challenges for the better management of New Zealand’s oceans is a lack of information on the marine environment. The monitoring programme of the local Fiordland marine environment has given us a much better understanding of marine species and pests in the Fiordland areas.”
He also praised their collaborative efforts: “The Guardians, and other groups such as the Land and Water Forum, have shown that collaboration is a very effective way of achieving better, more enduring results for our environment. The collaborative process has helped many groups across New Zealand reach long-term and balanced solutions.”
A land forgotten
Aside from the untiring work of the Fiordland Marine Guardians, one of the reasons that the region has remained so raw and wild is due to its location. Nestled in the remote southwestern corner of the South Island of New Zealand, Fiordland has never had any significant permanent population. Even the Maori never had any permanent settlements in the area, only passing through occasionally to hunt, fish or collect pounamu (greenstone/jade).
Into the wild
This isolation has contributed to a landscape that, for the adventurous of spirit, offers an utterly unique glimpse into our far distant past. One of the best ways to experience this primeval paradise for yourself is picking up a campervan rental in Queenstown, Dunedin or a Christchurch and taking a road trip down south. After driving alongside the gorgeous lake Wakatipu for 30 or 40 kilometres, those bound for Fiordland will then veer west - the entire journey into the heart of Fiordland takes less than 4 hours, every minute of which allows you to revel in rich South Island scenery.
As for where to stay when you get there, Fiordland National Park has a surprising amount of campsites that cater to campervan adventurers. Many are less busy than the average Department of Conservation campsite, with more limited facilities that should pose no problem for those in a campervan.
The sights and sensations of Fiordland
What to do once you’ve got there? For a start, Fiordland is home to some of the finest walking tracks in the world. Both the Routeburn and Milford tracks are renowned for their incredible scenic views. Take the 4 day Milford Track if you’re after a walk that’s fairly moderate in terms of difficulty level but still features a lush beauty rarely seen outside of tourism ads. The Routeburn Track on the other hand is the ultimate alpine adventure, weaving through meadows, alpine gardens and ice-carved valleys. Both of these walks strictly require bookings in the Great Walks season (27 October 2015 - 27 April 2016). Outside of this period, booking isn’t necessary but facilities, including bridges, are greatly reduced and it’s recommended that only experienced hikers make the trip during these colder months.
If strenuous activity isn’t really your thing, there’s still plenty to see and do around the Milford Sound area. Rise to the skies for a scenic helicopter flight over Tukoko Glacier, visit the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory, or take a leisurely cruise on the sound.
However you choose to experience this breathtaking region that has been so lovingly cared for by the Fiordland Marine Guardians, it’s certain to be the experience of a lifetime.
Motorhome Republic has you covered with your motorhome roadtripping needs. Head on over to our NZ landing page and search through all the options available.