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December 2018 Issue
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Hut revenue down after stormy year

Diggers Hut in the Ruahine Range is one backcountry hut that DOC won’t be getting any more revenue from. Photo: Daniel McIntyre and Ben Pigot

Revenue from backcountry huts has declined after the country was battered by storms earlier this year.

DOC’s latest annual report shows revenue from backcountry huts has been flat since 2015/16 and declined by $33,000 over the past year to $2,062,000.

DOC recreation, tourism and heritage director Gavin Walker said track closures from storms across the country affected revenue at a number of popular sites. Pinnacles Hut in Coromandel, the largest hut in the country, was closed for much of the year due to storm damage and revenue was down $52,000. A number of tracks in the Nelson region also suffered damage following cyclones earlier in the year.

Walker said, overall, more people were using the backcountry hut network, as the conservation estate has become increasingly popular with Kiwis and tourists alike.

He said people dodging hut fees was also an issue, but the majority of users pay fees.

Last month, Wilderness revealed that more than half of hut users may have been dodging fees at Brewster Hut. After DOC introduced a booking system at the hut, the number of people paying hut fees doubled while the amount of sewage flown from the site remained the same, suggesting half of users were not paying previously. The department is developing an online payment system in a bid to increase compliance.

Overall, revenue from backcountry huts has increased by 28 per cent from 2013/14 to 2017/18.

Revenue has also continued to climb at DOC campsites and Great Walk huts. Revenue from campsites increased by 59 per cent since 2013/14 to reach $7.5m, while revenue from Great Walk huts has increased 38 per cent over the same period, to $7.3m.

Walker said DOC is undertaking a widespread review of hut fees and will be consulting with tramping groups shortly.