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November 2015 Issue
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Editorial Letter, November 2015

The South Fiord of Lake Te Anau seen from the Kepler Track - a perfect loop track. Photo: Evan Foster

There are so many great tracks that lead somewhere spectacular, only for you to have to return the way you came. Lake Marian in Fiordland, Heaphy Track, Queen Charlotte Track, and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to name but four. Look at a map and you’ll find dozens – hundreds – more. Even superlative tracks like the Milford and Routeburn are one way, requiring transport to and from either end.

That’s why you’ve got to love loop tracks. They’re fantastically convenient, negating the need for tricky, time consuming or expensive car shuttling. Just head to the road end, strap on your pack and off you go – only to return to the exact same spot from another direction in a few hours or days.

Convenience aside, it’s for another reason I think loop tracks are the best for tramping: every view is different, every step is into the unknown, a surprise is waiting around every corner.

Starting on p44, we’ve selected 10 of New Zealand’s best loop tracks  – if you can recommend any others, let me know.

Thanks to those readers who pointed out tenure review is voluntary. I stated in last month’s editorial that the process was compulsory, but that’s not the case. However, my other comments around the lack of investment in infrastructure in the upper North Island remain valid. It’s not acceptable for DOC to even contemplate another Great Walk for the Queenstown area when the money spent on this type of infrastructure would benefit far more people if it were invested in places like Waikato, Auckland and Northland. The refrain we’ve heard when pressing DOC on this issue is that the climate is so mild, huts are not needed. I’m not sure they’re any more mild to those experienced on the Abel Tasman, yet there are plenty of huts in that park.

Regardless, not every tramper wants to carry a tent – especially if they have young children with them. If DOC is wondering what it could do on this front, how about a few more loop tracks and huts in Coromandel Forest Park – the frequently packed 80-bunk Pinnacles Hut is proof, if any were needed, that more accommodation options are required. A few huts on islands in the Hauraki Gulf to make overnight stays more feasible for those who have kayaked or caught a ferry for a weekend of walking would be wonderful – especially if a full circuit of Rangitoto and Motutapu can be walked. A couple more huts in Northland, especially on the Te Paki Coastal Track for those who would prefer not to camp, shouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility.

But building more great tramping opportunities in Queenstown is more about tourism than catering to local trampers, so I won’t hold my breath.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate the recreation gains of tenure review – it has delivered much to trampers far and wide.