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DOC stops operators from pre-booking huts

Furhana Ahmad of Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience says it will be more difficult to plan and run her business if DOC won't allow pre-booking of Great Walks. Photo: David Hill

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DOC has given Great Walks operators notice to stop pre-booking huts for guided tramps.

The news, reported in Stuff, has brought mixed reactions from operators and trampers. 

Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience guide Furhana​ Ahmad​ has been pre-booking bunks on the Rakiura Track for her clients since the booking system came in around five years ago.

She said the change will mean she can’t advertise dates with any assuredness. 

“We do not know when visitors will book their tours, especially now with Covid-19 issues. The majority of New Zealanders are not pre-booking anything,” she said.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said it’s important everyone gets a fair go. “We understand that DOC has been checking commercial bookings to ensure they are meeting the conditions set out in their concession agreements, and has found some anomalies that they have asked the operators to address,” he said.

“This affects only a small number of operators and a limited number of hut nights. DOC figures show that concessionaires account for just four per cent of bookings on the Great Walks.”

Changes coming for Milford Sound

Big changes may be on the way for Piopiotahi/Milford Sound, the NZ Herald reports

The newly unveiled Milford Opportunities Project has announced drastic changes for the tourism hotspot, but not all are happy with the proposal.

The project would see cruise ships banned and the aerodrome runway removed, and private vehicles would be restricted to a parking permit system.

A Bowen Falls cable car and new walking tracks are also on the cards.

Tourism minister Stuart Nash said the attraction could not return to its over-populated pre-covid state.
“The project is an excellent test case for a self-funded, sustainable tourism system paid for by visitors, with costs and negative impacts priced into the tourist experience rather than shouldered by New Zealand ratepayers and taxpayers,” he said.

Study shows huts have relatively low impact

A first of its kind study has compared the environmental impact of overnight stays in huts, campsites and lodges.

Led by recreation ecologist Dr Jeffery Marion, the experiment gauged adverse visitor impact by measuring intensive trampling, vegetation loss, and exposed soil. 

The results showed huts to be relatively low impact beyond their ‘design footprint’, when compared to lodges and campsites. 

Marion puts the results down to the “the spatial concentration and containment of visitor activity to the huts, decks, dining facility, and formal trails provided by the hut facilities.”

The full results are yet to be published, but you can read more here.

Heaphy reopens, but not Queen Charlotte

The Heaphy Track has reopened after fallen trees were cleared from the track.

DOC’s Suvi van Smit said the storm damage was mostly on the coastal section between Kohaihai and Heaphy Hut.

“DOC staff have repaired damage to the track as much as possible and cleared fallen trees. Extra care is needed on the coastal section of track. To safely cross damaged track areas, mountain bikers should dismount and walk,” she said.

“The bridge over Pitt Creek by the Heaphy Hut was washed out and a temporary ford is in place to enable it to be safely crossed.”

The Queen Charlotte Track suffered multiple slips, fallen trees, cracks in the track and the loss of a bridge at Davies Bay, and will remain closed.

Find more details here.