Fiordland National Park occupies the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand. It is by far the largest of the 13 national parks in New Zealand, with an area of 12,607 square kilometres (4,868 sq mi), and a major part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site. The park is administered by the Department of Conservation.
10,000 square kilometres (3,900 sq mi) of Fiordland were set aside as a national reserve in 1904, following suggestions by then-future Prime Minister Thomas Mackenzie and Southland Commissioner of Crown Lands, John Hay, that the region should be declared a national park.The area had already become a destination for trampers, following the opening up of the Milford Track from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound in 1889 by New Zealand explorers Quintin McKinnon and Donald Sutherland, which received significant publicity from a 1908 article in the London Spectator describing it as the "Finest Walk in the World".
The Fiordland "public reserve" was created as a park administered by the Department of Lands and Survey - in practical terms similar to a National Park. The only two officially named "national parks" in New Zealand at the time, Tongariro National Park and Egmont National Park, were administered by park boards. Consolidation of the management of these parks led to the National Parks Act of 1952, which brought Fiordland National Park into the fold, formally making it the third National Park in New Zealand.The only main road into the park, State Highway 94 (SH 94), reached the Homer Tunnel area in 1935, but it was only with the tunnel's completion in 1953 that Milford Sound was accessible by road - to date the only fiord in the national park with road access.
Fiordland became the scene of one of New Zealand's most significant conservation debates when in the 1960s it was proposed to raise the level of Lake Manapouri to assist hydro-electricity production at West Arm. The ensuing battle resulted in government ultimately bowing to the weight of petitions and passing a bill in the 1970s that gave the lake statutory protection.In 1986, Fiordland National Park was individually recognised as a World Heritage Site, and in 1990, together with three other national parks to the north, as part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area.The park's protected area includes all of the islands along its coast, as well as the remote Solander Islands. Although the park's seaward-boundary is at the mean high water mark, a total of ten adjoining marine reserves protect large areas of water in several of the fiords. The most recent expansion of Fiordland National Park was the 1999 addition of the 482 square kilometres (186 sq mi) Waitutu Forest. Possible future additions are Big Bay, parts of the Livingston/Eglinton Ranges, and the Dean/Rowallan catchment area.