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May 2021 Issue
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DOC investigating hiking weekend hut fees

Weekend fees at popular huts like Pahautea in the Waikato are under the DOC fiscal microscope. Photo: George Driver

Trampers could be faced with higher fees to stay in a hut or campsite during the weekend and in peak season as DOC reviews its hut and campsite fees to help spread demand.

DOC visitor recreation and amenities pricing manager Carly Strausberg said the department was looking at a range of pricing options with new fees to take effect from July 1. She would not confirm what changes were being investigated but said the options included differential pricing and incentives for trampers to visit quieter huts and campsites.

“We’re currently looking at a range of pricing options for 2021/2022 as part of our regular pricing reviews,” Strausberg said. “When setting our prices there is a range of considerations including how to ensure a reasonable return for the taxpayer investment, demand management and, where possible, how we might use pricing to help address any environmental impacts from use.

“We expect to share more details in the coming weeks.”

Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) has been consulted on the proposal and president Jan Finlayson said the department was looking at charging different fees for weekends and seasons, which FMC opposed.

“It would effectively provide a discount for international tourists, who were more able to visit huts during the week, and punish Kiwis who often had no choice but to tramp during the weekends,” Finlayson said. “It gives visitors a huge privilege over New Zealanders.”

FMC’s submission on the proposal said fees shouldn’t be used as a tool to manage visitors.

“While we agree that pricing has its place in cost-recovery relating to use of huts and campsites, it should not be regarded by the department as a primary, or even appropriate, tool for visitor management,” the submission said.