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DOC urges caution in the backcountry following South Island earthquakes

Clarence River blocked by a landslide. Photo: 1NEWS

Update (16 Nov):

DOC says that overall, most of its facilities appear to have escaped damage from the Kaikoura earthquakes, apart from some tracks nearer to the epicentre. Rangers are still checking tracks and huts in the worst affected areas, but it will be a few days before they have a full picture of the extent of the damage.

“Visitors are advised to stay away from tracks in the Kaikoura and South Marlborough regions until they have been fully assessed. Caution is also urged on some tracks on the West Coast and North Canterbury, but the rest of the country is open and it is business as usual,” DOC’s Deputy Director-General of Operations, Mike Slater said in a statement. “Rockfalls and slips could still occur in the areas closest to the quake zone, especially with ongoing aftershocks and poor weather.”

Visitors are urged to check the DOC website or local DOC visitor centre for further information about alerts and issues.


  • Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia/Clarence walks: Clarence River – earthquake damage. A landslide has partially blocked the Clarence River. People are advised to stay off river until the area has been assessed


  • Abel Tasman National Park: The earthquake and heavy rainfall has caused a slip between Mutton Cove an Anapai on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. The track is passable but visitors should take care and move quickly across it.


  • Hanmer Forest Park: Waterfall Track and Chatterton River Track near Hanmer are closed due to earthquake damage.

West Coast

  • Kahurangi National Park: Caution advised on backcountry tracks. After the recent earthquakes DOC is in the process of checking backcountry tracks in the West Coast, including the Wangapeka Track. Caution is advised until further information is available.
  • Heaphy Track: As a result of the recent earthquakes, there are a few minor slips on the Heaphy Track. Caution is required.
  • Cobb Valley Track: There is a large slip on the Cobb Valley Track in Kahurangi National Park between Chaffey and Fenella Huts. It is passable but recommended for experienced trampers only.
  • Oparara Basin: Honeycomb Hill caves closed. Tracks are open in the area but the Honeycomb Hill caves are closed because of roof damage.
  • Denniston: There’s been a rockfall at Denniston –  the Brakehead site is open but Banbury Mine needs remedial work and is closed.

Update (15 Nov): DOC has advised that visitors stay away from all DOC facilities until further notice in the following areas:


  • Blenheim area: Whites Bay Campsite, Whites Bay tracks
  • Ka Whata Tu Rakihouia Clarence: Mt Fyffe Hut
  • Kaikoura area: Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
  • Marfells Beach area: Marfells Beach Campsite
  • Molesworth Recreation Reserve/Acheron Road
  • Okiwi Bay – Half Moon Bay area: Ohau Stream Walk, Okiwi Bay Campsite
  • Puhi Puhi Scenic Reserve: Puhi Puhi Campsite


  • Abel Tasman National Park: Abel Tasman Coast Track – slip on track between Mutton Cove and Anapai)


  • Arthur’s Pass National Park: Arthur’s Pass, Lewis Pass, Lake Sumner tracks – potential damage
  • Cheviot area: Manuka Bay Track (Port Robinson Walkway), Tweedies Gully Walk – tracks closed pending DOC inspection
  • St James Conservation Area tracks

DOC will continue to post updates on their alert page for these areas as information becomes available. They ask that any safety issues be reported to 0800 DOC HOT.

ORIGINAL (14 Nov 2016): Many recreation areas in the lower North Island and upper South Island are to be avoided in the coming days, as aftershocks from a 7.5 earthquake are still rocking the region.

The hardest hit areas were in the northern South Island, near the epicenter of Hanmer Springs. DOC rangers in the affected areas are doing track and hut checks to survey the damage, so trampers are urged to avoid these areas until further notice.

“We ask that people treat all visitor sites in the Canterbury, Marlborough, Wellington and northern West Coast regions with caution over the next week,” DOC deputy director general for operations, Michael Slater, said in a statement.

In addition to damages to huts, it’s possible that slips could have damaged tracks in some places. A large slip in the Marlborough region has blocked the Clarence River where it meets the Dart Stream. Ongoing aftershocks could continue to trigger rockfall in places.

Eastern beaches on both islands are also under tsunami warnings, so it’s recommended to avoid coastal walks until the threat has lifted.

“DOC has a big task ahead in ensuring that all our facilities are safe for public use,” Slater said. “This will take a while, particularly in the most heavily impacted regions. In addition, the Department is assisting emergency services and civil defence teams.”

Check DOC’s ‘know before you go’ page in the coming days for further updates to tracks and parks.