In this occasional series, David Barnes attempts to unravel and demystify the different types of conservation land.  

Some people say that National Parks are the gold standard for protected land. To the extent that they (along with National Reserves) require an Act of Parliament to disestablish them, that’s true. But Nature Reserves have a purity of purpose that other lands lack, and that purity is protected by a legislated ‘Keep Out’ sign. National Parks are preserved in perpetuity, both for their intrinsic worth and for public enjoyment. There can be a tension between those two objectives – at one end of the spectrum, from major tourist infrastructure but at the other, from, for example, trampers damaging bogs. In contrast, nature reserves are above all about preservation of natural values, and entry is by permit only. Even tying a boat up requires a permit. As it happens, most nature reserves are islands, so the boat rule makes sense.  Island nature reserves include Te Hauturu-o-Toi / Little Barrier Island and Kapiti Island. The subantarctic islands are a National Nature Reserve.  Taiaroa Head Nature Reserve, home of Dunedin’s royal albatrosses, is probably the best known mainland one

Scientific reserves have some similarities to nature reserves. They are held for the protection of their features (including flora and fauna) for “scientific study, research, education, and the benefit of the country”. Access can be restricted to by permit but the situation is the opposite of nature reserves: access allowed is the default position. Examples of scientific reserves include Nardoo Scientific Reserve, the first protected tussock land in the country, and Turakirae Head Scientific Reserve, south-east of Wellington Harbour.

Nature reserves and scientific reserves are protected from mining by being listed in Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991.

Next time: Conservation Parks and Forest Parks

David Barnes is a long serving member of the FMC executive. He is FMC’s nominee to the NZ Conservation Authority, the public representative board which provides advice to DOC and the Minister of Conservation.