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DOC investigates six operators over Great Walks bookings

DOC is checking operators on the Heaphy, Paparoa and Rakiura Great Walks have not made speculative bookings.

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The Department of Conservation’s compliance team has followed up with six tour operators after an annual check of Great Walks opening bookings.

Checks are being made on six guided walking companies operating on the Heaphy, Paparoa and Rakiura tracks to ensure they have not made incomplete or unauthorised speculative bookings and are not occupying more than 50 per cent of Great Walks hut space, after irregularities were picked up.

Great Walks bookings are sold on a first-in first-served basis from the date that bookings open. Tour operators, like all people booking a Great Walk, need to book when bookings open to the public and include the full names and details of anyone they are booking on behalf of. Bookings cannot be made speculatively and on-sold at later dates.

“Speculative or non-compliant bookings have been a hot topic this year as Great Walks grow in popularity,” said DOC Heritage and Visitors Director Steve Taylor. “The downside of this popularity does mean that there will be a few people who try to get around the system and that’s where DOC’s visitor centre and compliance teams come in.

“The compliance team works with DOC visitor centre staff who review all bookings related to their local Great Walks and report any that look suspicious.

“If operators are found to be in breach of their concession agreements, they must either update their bookings or have the places cancelled.

“This compliance action is in addition to standard work undertaken each year by visitor centres to check any irregular bookings with the public, operators, school and community groups.”

Taylor said speculative bookings by tour operators and others is a relatively uncommon issue.

“Compliance action has only been necessary with six operators whose bookings equate to roughly 0.2 per cent of Great Walk hut and campsite spaces across the coming season.

“However, where it does occur, we have systems in place to identify and respond to it.

“Peak season dates on the Great Walks can book out fast and it’s important access is equal for everyone.”

Waitākere Ranges kauri mapped

Manaaki Whenua has created the first map of individual kauri trees in New Zealand.

The Advanced Remote Sensing of Aotearoa programme was created in collaboration with Auckland Regional Council to understand where kauri are and how kauri dieback spreads. 

Using laser-based surveying, aerial based multispectral imagery and ground data, researchers identified 28,424 individual kauri trees over 15 metres tall in Waitākere Ranges, and nearly 6000 trees upwards of 30m.

Of the trees identified, 1173 trees over 15m have died or are currently dying – more than researchers expected. 

“It seems as though there are many dead and dying trees around the periphery of the park where there are access roads and paths,” researcher Dr John Dymond said.

“If the affected trees are close to live kauri trees, then we can compare them and work out which are dying.” 

Heavy snowfall prompts widespread avalanche warnings

High avalanche warnings have been issued by the NZ Mountain Safety Council following heavy August snowfall.

The largest snowfall event of the winter so far saw snow falling to low levels in Canterbury and parts of the North Island.

The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory avalanche danger ratings have risen to ‘high’ for Tongariro and Taranaki, and ‘considerable’ for Aoraki/Mt Cook, Mt Hutt, Craigieburn Range, Ohau, Two Thumbs and Nelson Lakes. 

MSC chief executive Mike Daisley urged trampers and climbers to proceed with caution.

“The first fine, clear day following this system is likely to produce numerous loose wet avalanches as the snow warms up from being exposed to the sun,” he said. “The 24-48hr period after a storm like this one is the most dangerous and while the temptation is to rush out and get the fresh powder, it’s really the time for patience and a cautious approach.” 

Check the Avalanche Advisory before heading into alpine environments.

Queen Charlotte Track may be closed for months

A damage assessment has delivered bad news for Marlborough, RNZ reports.

Following a recent storm which battered the region, DOC believes the Queen Charlotte Track may be closed for months. 

DOC’s Margot Ferrier said the weather event caused slips, windfalls and washed away a bridge, leaving sections impassable.

“Because of the extensive damage and the difficult access, the whole trek has remained temporarily closed until we can organise to get some people out there to start making some repairs,” she said.

Accommodation providers, guiding companies and water taxis have had to cancel or reschedule clients.

“Queen Charlotte Track is one of Marlborough’s iconic visitor attractions so we are well aware that the longer it remains closed, the more impact it has on people that have already had a fairly tough time with Covid and other things,” Ferrier said.

Prada’s $2800 yoga mat

How much would you spend on a yoga mat?

Most brands wouldn’t charge more than three figures, but most brands aren’t Prada – the fashion brand’s new yoga mat retails for a whopping $2845.

Their website reveals nothing about the mat’s materials, so the price justification is in logo only, Outside’s Yoga Journal reports.

“There’s nothing that tells you what to expect from the mat itself, except for the fact that it’s ‘decorated with a macro Prada logo in a contrasting color,’” Tracey Middleton writes.

“For those who are purchasing a Prada yoga mat, I suppose the logo is the only thing that matters.”