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Mt Alfred guiding company plans to offer conservation-based walks

Photo: David Barnes

The company that has gained the exclusive concession for guiding on Mt Alfred/Ari says it wants to use the area to promote conservation and environmental stewardship through guided walks.

The recent closure of the popular summit walk has caused an upwelling of disappointment from the tramping community.

A DOC-managed trail leads to the bush line of Mt Alfred, roughly three-quarters of the way up the mountain. But past the bushline is part of the 6000ha Mt Earnslaw Station managed by Geoffrey Thomson. He’s now restricting access to the summit; Glenorchy-based Wildlight Safaris has been given the concession to take trampers to the top.

Thomson said in the past year, he’s seen a big increase in the number of travelers and trampers visiting his farm to get to the summit, many of whom have not sought permission. He said the extra visitors has produced more rubbish and caused worrying degradation to the farmland.

Patricia Ko with Wildlight Safaris says Thomson contacted their company because they have a good reputation for conservation-based approaches to guiding. She says they work with DOC and local schools regularly, planting trees and educating young people about environmental issues.

“We acknowledge how important it is for local people to get up there,” Ko said “We are a group of conservation people, and we really don’t want the area to get ruined. And, we will stop the whole backpacker stream, going up there and parking their campervans at the bottom and camping at the top – that’s what happens a lot.” She added that she’s seen, “toilet paper everywhere” on the summit.

While they don’t yet know what they’ll charge for guided walks, Ko said it won’t be “exclusive”.

Seasoned tramper and Wilderness contributor David Barnes did the Mt Alfred walk a couple years ago.

He said that he’s surprised Thomson is worried about people getting lost or injured on his land, as leaseholders aren’t responsible for what happens to individuals on their land.

“I’ve always advocated, that rather than saying no access, require access by permission,” Barnes said, adding that he doesn’t remember an obvious sign requesting that trampers call the Mt Earnslaw Station.

“I don’t agree with the idea that it should be limited to commercial use only. But it’s private land, and he has the right to do it,” Barnes said. “It’s a real shame.”

Wildlight Safaris is still in the planning phases for their recently acquired concession, but are now taking bookings for individuals or groups who wish to do the walk.