A fed-up Southland farmer has trespassed two Te Araroa Trail walkers after becoming increasingly frustrated with walkers going off trail, leaving gates open and even breaking into a private hut.
The 25km section of the Te Araroa Trail at issue runs through Mt Linton Station, halfway between Te Anau and Invercargill. Farm manager Ceri Lewis said the 13,365ha station – one of the largest privately owned stations in the country – had been on the TA for a decade, and there were few issues at first. But as it had become more popular it had put an increasing strain on the farm.
“It’s got to the stage where the volume of people through there is beginning to affect us moving stock through the property,” Lewis said.
Stock escaped on a weekly basis due to walkers leaving gates open.
“Even though we have stiles at every gate, some people don’t use them and don’t latch the gate properly.”
Walkers had also repeatedly used a private hut on the property, despite signage and trail notes which said it was off-limits.
“Last year people tried to jimmy their way in and people were also getting through a broken window.”
Last year, Lewis worked with the Te Araroa Trail Trust to change the route to an area of the station with fewer stock and away from the private hut. Despite removing the old track markers and installing clear signage informing walkers of the route change, Lewis said people continued to walk the old, more direct, route and the issues had continued.
As a last resort, he said he went to the police for trespass notices, which he has used on two occasions. The walkers were instructed to leave the property the way they had come or face prosecution.
“It was the last straw, but it seems to have done the trick,” Lewis said.
Lewis was also concerned TA walkers were lighting fires at Telford Campsite, which bordered the farm.
“We have had the driest farm since records began and the fire risk is extreme – there’s a complete fire ban. The damage a fire could cause would be pretty frightening.”
Despite the frustration, Lewis said he wanted to retain public access.
“We’ve got a moral responsibility as landowners to let people enjoy the whole of New Zealand. We’ve got no problem with 99 per cent of trampers – they are fantastic and behave themselves – it’s just that one per cent that spoils it.
“I just wish people would have a bit more respect and realise we are a working farm.”
The Te Araroa Trail Trust posted on Facebook calling on TA walkers to stay on route. The post said the trust fully supported Lewis’ actions and asked walkers to callout people ignoring the advice.
“Ninety-nine per cent of walkers do a great job of respecting landowners and ensuring continued goodwill towards Te Araroa, however, a small minority are eroding this goodwill and putting future experiences at risk,” the post said.
“Their ignorance threatens the enjoyment of others, and it completely undermines the hours of work put in by Te Araroa volunteers making these routes happen.”
However, TA walkers on Facebook said the route through the station was poorly marked and the GPX file for the walk was incorrect in places.
The Te Araroa Trail Trust also said there were issues with walkers camping on Mt Hay Station, beside Lake Tekapo.