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Wellington Caving Group

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Appendix New Zealand Speleological Society Ethical Guidelines

The Society expects that the following code will help to guide the actions of New Zealand Speleological Society affiliated clubs and individual members, and promote an ethical approach to caving by other cave users.

Conservation and Protection of Caves:

  1. We will take care to avoid destruction or disfiguration of cave decorations (speleothems), and any other natural feature of caves.
  2. During exploration, sensitive areas will be taped off and routes will be marked for future use.
  3. In sensitive areas, tracks will be readily adhered to, and where applicable, route markers followed.
  4. We will not disfigure caves by unnecessary markings. Survey marks will be small, inconspicuous and removable.
  5. In areas of clean flowstone floors, muddy clothing or boots will be removed.
  6. We will not leave rubbish in caves; our own or other people's. Flash-bulbs, batteries, wrappings, and other refuse must be carried out of the cave.
  7. We will carry spent carbide out of the cave and wherever possible, encourage the use of battery operated lights.
  8. We will, where practical, discourage camping in caves.
  9. Under usual circumstances, we will discourage the practice of urinating or leaving faeces in caves.
  10. Where there is no alternative to underground camps, faeces, where practical, will be removed from the cave.
  11. When carrying out water tracing work, only those tracing agents which present no danger to the cave flora or fauna will be used.
  12. We will also ensure that water supplies are not adversely affected by tracing agents, and before carrying out experiments, we will obtain water rights from the applicable catchment authority.
  13. We will not construct a gate or a barrier in a cave without first obtaining approval of and the landowner or administering authority.
  14. We will not construct a gate in a cave without an accompanying sign explaining the reason for restricting access, and the circumstances under which authorised visits are possible.
  15. We will not interfere with, force, or damage a legitimately erected gate or barrier.
  16. Bolts for rigging in caves should only be used as a last resort.
  17. Under no circumstances will modifications be made to a cave, or cave entrance, other than to gain access.
  18. We will not remove any deposit, speleothem, sub-fossil remains, flora or fauna, or any other naturally occurring thing from a cave or karst area without first obtaining permission from the administering authority.
  19. Anything removed from a cave or karst area where permission is granted will, where appropriate, be lodged with a recognised museum or scientific organisation.
  20. The classification of caves and karst areas for the purpose of conservation and preservation will be in accordance with the Society's Cave and Karst Management Policy.
  21. We will honour the classification of caves and karst areas determined by government agencies e.g. Department of Conservation.
  22. The Society will consult government agencies to assist them in preparing classifications of caves and karst areas.
  23. We will respect Maori tapu relating to burial caves and will not enter such caves without permission. All human remains, artefacts, and other objects will be left undisturbed. No photographs will be taken without obtaining permission.
  24. When camping in natural areas or on farmland, we shall carefully observe the established Minimum Impact Code and rules of good camping conduct, especially in the lighting of fires and the removal of rubbish. We will bury our faeces when camping.
  25. In order to conserve and protect our cave and karst resource, we shall encourage other organisations or groups that use caves to adopt these guidelines.

Cavers and Landowners:

  1. We will seek and confirm specific approval in advance from the owner before entering a cave or crossing private property. On no account will we take access for granted.
  2. We will respect the privacy of landowners.
  3. We will respect restrictions placed on access to caves, for example, during the lambing season.
  4. We will take care to avoid interference with crops or stock, and ensure that all gates are left as found.
  5. We will, where a cave entrance has been blocked by the landowner to prevent injury to stock, re-block the entrance after use; and will liaise with the owner to erect a fence or some other mutually satisfactory means of protecting the entrance.
  6. We will not conduct any substantial dig, or use explosives, on the surface or underground without the permission of the landowner (or administering authority). We will make secure or cover any hole which has occurred as a result.
  7. We will not be accompanied by a dog, or carry a firearm without the prior consent of the landowner (or administering authority).
  8. We will always have available a current Society membership card to show the landowner (administering authority) when necessary.

Public Relations:

  1. We will obtain permission from the managing authority before entering a tourist cave, and will treat guides and other officials courteously.
  2. We will, when visiting the area of another group or club, co-operate and liaise with that group/club.

Publishing Information:

  1. We will be discreet in disseminating information that might endanger caves or karst areas. In particular we should not reveal the location of entrances in newspapers.
  2. We will not publish. or draw media attention to scientifically, ecologically, or physically sensitive caves or karst areas without prior consultation with NZSS Council.
  3. We will, in reporting our work, particularly to the media, avoid and discourage sensationalism, exaggeration and unwarranted statements.
  4. We will, in publishing our work, take particular care to acknowledge other people's contribution to the work involved, either as clubs, groups or individuals, whether by published work, personal communications, or whatever.

Ethics in Detail

Carbide
For a short period after emptying your lamp, the waste carbide undergoes a reaction with the surrounding substrate and may be toxic to animals. It will remain very unsightly as well. Take carbide out of the cave in an unsealed container e.g. plastic bag. In many overseas caves, carbide is banned as a light source, and if members do not dispose of it carefully, the same will apply in New Zealand. Outside the cave, don't leave it where stock can eat it or it can be seen.
Bones
NZSS policy regarding bones is to leave them where they are unless they inevitably will be destroyed. All previously unexplored passages should be viewed as a source of subfossils and due caution should be taken when first exploring a passage. If bones are seen they should be taped off or placed out of harm's way nearby.
Bones should only be removed from caves if they are to be housed in a public collection by those who are suitably qualified. Waitomo Caves Museum maintains a properly documented land catalogued collection. Collections are also held at Auckland University, Canterbury Museum, and the Museum of New Zealand. An introduction to the sub-fossil remains found in caves is now available at the Waitomo Caves Museum.
Bats
Bats are very sensitive to disturbance, and as they are rare and endangered, should not be interfered with when found.
Cave Animals
Collecting or killing cave animals may seriously deplete populations. Please leave them alone unless taking part in a legitimate scientific programme.
Cave Decoration
Cave speleothems (formations) include stalagmites, stalactites, straws, helictites, coral and crystals of all shapes and styles. It is strictly forbidden to remove any formation, including broken bits, except with the permission of the land manager and the NZSS Council detailed description of speleothems has been published by the Waitomo Caves Museum.
Access to Caves
If the cave is on private property, permission must be obtained from the owner or manager. This is very important for the future access of cavers to all caves. Most caves on the public estate (e.g. Department of Conservation) are "Open Access" to cavers, but a permit is necessary in some cases. At present, caves which need permits include: Aurora (Te Anau), Metro Cave (Paparoa National Park), Honeycomb Hill Cave (Karamea), Hollow Hill (Waitomo), Puketiti Flower Cave (north Taranaki), Bone Passage in Gardners Gut (Waitomo), from Department of Conservation, and Wiri Lava Cave (Auckland), from New Zealand Rail.