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Plan to allow pets into national park angers environmentalists

A proposal to allow pet dogs into one of New Zealand's national parks has angered environmentalists who say it sets a dangerous precedent.

Dog owners in Franz Josef say their options for walking their pets are limited to the township and the local riverbank.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is proposing a change to the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Plan, making the national park the first in the country to allow dogs on tracks.

Dogs would have to be on a leash, and owners would have to get a permit, to walk their dogs on four tracks. 

DOC's Wayne Costello said, "You live in a place like Franz Josef, you're pretty much surrounded by national park and so the opportunities for dog walking are not that great".

Dog owner Kathy Hartshorne said there are not many places to take the dog, and in the national park dogs will be on short leads "so we have them under control the whole time".

Forest and Bird says the risk to wildlife is too great, and regional manager Nicky Snoyrink says the law prioritises the protection of native species.

Ms Snoyrink also said there's no way of policing the walking of dogs in national parks, and it sets a dangerous precedent.

However, Mr Costello said: "If that's a precedent that enables people to get out and enjoy their national park and there's no harm done, then that's a good precedent."

Submissions on the draft National Park Plan close in three weeks.

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Dog owners in Franz Josef, however, say there are few places in the area to walk their pets. Source: 1 NEWS