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Aoraki/Mt Cook endures its quietest season in years

Quiet times at Aoraki/Mt Cook where even the bustling Hooker Valley Track is nearly deserted. Photo: Shubham Gupta

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Covid-19 has decimated visitor numbers to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, Stuff reports

After a complete cease in visitors during Alert Level 4, visitor numbers for the first 26 days of Alert Level 2 show a 40 per cent fall, and according to local business, the numbers haven’t recovered.

Hermitage Hotel director of sales and marketing Kylie Hogan told Stuff the market had ‘completely changed’.

“It’s meant we’ve had to totally rethink what sort of customer we’re serving, we’re not getting 300 visitors to come to a buffet. Some days, we would be lucky to have 50 visitors coming through,” Hogan said.

FMC president Jan Finlayson said the slowdown provides time for reflection.

“It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic, but there we are,” Finlayson said. “We’ve got to move from a demand-based approach to a supply-based one.”

She hopes all Kiwis can experience the park in its natural state.

“That experience should occur as soon as you end up on the doorstep of a national park, whether it’s the natural sounds or even the native insects,” she said.

“If you want commerce, then you can go to the other two-thirds of New Zealand.”

Old Mountaineer’s Café owner Charlie Hobbs has had to limit the number of workers by more than half and is doing everything he can do to stay afloat.

“Because you’ve got the borders closed, you’re not getting the international visitors which sustain us at this time of year,” he said.

“Kiwis do like visiting national parks, but it tends to be at the weekend, and then only if the weather is decent. We’ve had a lot of slow weeks recently.”

Petition to reopen Hollyford Road

An online petition is calling for the reopening of the damaged Hollyford Road.

Aviator Jules Tapper, who started the petition, told the Otago Daily Times authorities have been sitting on their hands since the road was damaged in February’s storm.

“I just think it’s an abrogation of responsibility – the fact they’re not actually doing anything and just saying ‘it’s too expensive and it’ll happen again’,” Tapper said.

The road provides access to the beginning of the Hollyford Track, which also remains closed due to damage.

“I can see no good reason why this important access road should not be restored immediately, and certainly before next summer,” Tapper said.

“If ever there was a shovel-ready project, this is it.”

Aucklanders trespassing in Waitakere 

Fifteen Aucklanders were issued trespass notices after breaking the rahui in the Waitakere Ranges.

The walkers were caught on closed tracks during the first weekend of the city-wide lockdown, Auckland Council reports.

“It’s really disappointing that people are acting selfishly without regard to the permanent harm they may cause to our iconic kauri trees,” Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said.

“Individuals who flout the rules with no regard for the damage they cause can and will be held to account with trespass notices served against them.”
Under the Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw people may face penalties of up to $20,000 if they reoffended.

Dunedin tramping team celebrate 25 years

The feel-good tramping story of the week comes from Otago Daily Times, with its article on the Trixie Trampers, a special tramping group from Dunedin celebrating a quarter-century of walking together, against the odds.

“Despite a couple of helicopter rides and broken legs over the years, the Trixie Trampers have shown no signs of stopping,” Molly Houseman writes.
Though blind, the group’s co-founder Alison Jones, 75, continues to lead the group with her ‘homing pigeon’ sense of direction and her guide dog Jimmy.

Read the full story here.

Adaptive climber summits Grand Teton

Need some lockdown inspiration? Check out Outside Online’s heartwarming short film about adaptive climber Kira Brazinski, who followed her childhood dream of climbing Grand Teton.

Also inspiring is Wellington’s very own adaptive climbers challenging themselves at weekly Adaptive Climbing sessions at Fergs Climbing Wall.