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March 2018 Issue
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Goat haunts

Goat Pass Hut and Deception Valley. Photo: Shaun Barnett/Black Robin Photography
Four places once the domain of the goats, now great places to explore.

On Captain Cook’s second visit to New Zealand in 1773, the famous navigator released goats at the Marlborough Sounds, hoping to establish a wild population. Later visitors released more, intending them as a food source. Goats were just one of several hoofed mammals that European settlers introduced to the Antipodes. Agile, adaptable and with iron-hard constitutions, goats adapted well and became widespread. So much so, they became problem pests in many forests. Fortunately though, because these animals like to congregate in herds, controlling them is easier than deer.

Not surprisingly, many locations bear the name of goat. New Zealand has a Goat Island, Goat Hill, Goat Spur, Goat Creek, Goat Rock, Goat Bay, Goat Burn and even a Goat Knob. All of the following four backcountry destinations were presumably named because they were once the haunt of goats; they are profiled here simply because they’re excellent places to visit.

1- Goat Island, Auckland

Goat Island is the central feature of the Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve, which was the first established in New Zealand in 1975, and, for that matter, the world. Situated near the township of Leigh, the reserve is now famous for its excellent snorkelling, diving and sea kayaking – attracting more than 250,000 people every year. The reserve is also the legacy of marine biologist Bill Ballantine, who fought hard to establish it and marine reserve legislation.

2- Billygoat Walk, Coromandel Forest Park

This track is part of the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail, a two-day track with many sites of historic interest. During the 1920s, the last of the valley’s major kauri trees were milled and transported out in great floods after the release of specially constructed dams. However, the Billygoat Basin drained into a formidable 180m Billygoat Falls, necessitating the construction of a steep tramline to transport logs that would otherwise have been smashed to pieces. DOC has restored part of the tramline on this steep section of track known as the Billygoat Incline (damage to Kauaeranga Road will restrict access until later in 2018).

3- Goat Bay, Abel Tasman National Park

Goat Bay is one of the many glorious golden bays of this famous national park. It’s reached on a short walk south of Totaranui, taking 30-40 minutes, with an excellent viewpoint at Skinner Point en route.

4- Goat Pass Hut, Arthur’s Pass National Park

Goat Pass Hut occupies a commanding position near a relatively easy pass on the Main Divide of the Southern Alps. Most accessible from the east, it’s reached on a 4-5 hour tramp on a well-marked route up the Mingha Valley, which concludes with a boardwalk over tops characterised by an alpine wetland. A more difficult route leads to the pass from the west, up the largely untracked Deception Valley. The 20-bunk hut sees a fair amount of traffic, especially during mid-summer, when Coast-to-Coast competitors run over the pass from west to east. That’s the same direction most Te Araroa trampers take, usually en route for a resupply at Arthur’s Pass.