Wilderness visited the Tongariro Alpine Crossing over Labour Weekend to see how the new four hour parking restrictions were being enforced. Despite some confusion, most walkers adjusted fine.
That’s understandable. The majority of those who walk the track – 75 per cent – are international visitors knocking off a must-do experience.
But as we discover in our feature ‘Limiting appeal’ on p78, the restrictions are the first step to placing a cap on the number of people who do the crossing on any given day. What’s more, the TAC is being viewed as a test case. If the measures taken there are successful in limiting the number of walkers, then we can expect to see them rolled out to other crowded tracks around the country.
I guess we Kiwis have taken it for granted that we can drive to a road end, hop out of our cars and do a walk. Access is guaranteed to vast swathes of the country. But the crowds that descend on the top tourist destinations overseas have finally made their way to New Zealand and that guarantee no longer applies. Now to walk the TAC, and no doubt soon other tracks, forward planning is required and shuttle buses must be used – there is no feasible alternative for day walkers.
Putting a cap on numbers walking certain tracks is one thing, but drunken hut goers abusing trampers, smashing furniture and even bringing out their rifles for a spot of night hunting is beyond the pale.
That’s the scenario that unfolded on the Hollyford Track over Labour Weekend, when two apparently separate groups of jetboaters decided Alabaster and McKerrow Island huts were their domain with all other hut users intruders on their space.
Apparently, the jetboaters ferried in caseloads of beer and spirits to help them make the most of the long weekend. Such behaviour is far more effective than DOC’s parking restrictions in deterring people from visiting our wild places. Fortunately, avoiding such people is as easy as finding a hut that jetboats and 4WDs can’t access.
How bizarre that the culture of community, shared space and camaraderie, found at huts throughout the country can so easily be forgotten after a few drinks.