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Participants acknowledged that the natural environment gives the town many benefits including employment and recreational options for residents. Concerns were held with the governance structure, in particular the local voice, of some of the institutions managing these resources.

The benefits of being located at the foot of Mt Ruapehu and having access to the Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks is recognised by Ohakune residents. Residents would like a bigger say in decision making around the National Parks and see more of the money they generate from visitation retained within the community.

We are very fortunate to have in our area two national parks and DOC looks after them. But I believe there is not enough local management on those boards and we are being controlled by people outside the District. Sure, you have to have people outside the District but there is not the true local…. Things are happening we don’t really agree with and we have no say. We create a lot of money with our park but it goes to Wellington. We work to get people to come and enjoy our parks but we haven’t got the local input. Four and a half years to get a track down the mountain. Iwi’s all good with it, we’re all good with it, but someone else is making the decision. So the wellbeing of the community is looked after. We have iwi on board so that’s good. But 80 percent of people who come here don’t ski.”

At the time the discussion group was undertaken, Ohakune had experienced a very hot, dry summer and autumn.

“It’s hot. We were just saying tonight before I came, we were saying back in 1998 it was like this. It was that hot. Too hot. Climate change is coming but it’s been hot before. Before when the market gardeners had to come out with irrigation, but no more than they’ve ever had.”

“You get some pretty extreme weather here. I’ve lived in a lot of places but here is definitely extreme. And that poses a lot of challenges for the tourism industry, the ski field operators. I worked up there for five years and that can be really stressful if you’re closed for a few days in a row, income is affected. This year the ski fields were really bad. This year was rubbish, we really needed to make money so they cut staff.

Some changes in land use were noticed, in particular the development of farming land into lifestyle blocks and subdivisions.

“I sort of saw it coming. You see it when you go to urban areas, the sprawl. You see things now, farms turning into housing which would be nice if it was housing for all. Some of our town planning of the past has not been good, zoning has been relaxed.”

Some recent positive changes were noted with regarding to the environment concerning actions taken by district council and the Department of Conservation:

“Recently the Council has given the consent for the landfill to be a resource recovery centre which I think is really great for educating our town on how to use resources. And that’s going to have an effect when it comes to back yard burning and dumping on farms. For our town with (the environment) being our draw card, that’s pretty exciting that we’ve got a resource recovery centre. It’s really cool.”

“What I’ve noticed is that there is more bird life at the moment, especially our kereru, I’ve seen more kereru flourishing through the bush walk. Controversial, but I think it’s because of 1080. I think no one wants poison out there but rats and stoats and mice down here are really bad and I don’t think DOC (Department of Conservation) would be doing it if there was a better option. But personally, I think our bird life is flourishing down here.”

Residents perceived volcanic eruptions as the most serious civil defence risk to the town but noted that it was often the less obvious things that posed more of a likelihood of occurring. They felt that residents were as ‘prepared as they can be.’

“I think we’ve got a lot of ‘preppers’ around. People are prepared. But it would be quite good to remind people to be prepared.”

“When Ngauruhoe erupted in 1975 my parents loaded us in the car and drove round to look and when Ruapehu erupted, I think there was a bit of complacency. But the risk is the ash. We do have some lahar. It’s the things like slips, the flooding, and the diesel in the water supply. With ice, roads can close.”

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