Letter of the month
Not more helicopters
I don’t really want to have to wax cantankerous about what really is a laudable goal, getting more people out into the hills, but are helicopters the answer to improving accessibility?
If one can look past the massive nuisance they present as they whirr around the countryside, destroying what for many is one of the most fantastic things about the mountains – a soundscape absent of mechanised noise – they can hardly be seen as a reasonable form of access except to a privileged few.
And that is the thing with helicopters; they are for the pleasure of the few to the detriment of the many.
How can access that requires forking over hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars for a short trip be a way of encouraging more people into the hills?
Guy Cotter is right of course, we do have enormous amounts of ‘terrain’, to use his term, and much of it is only accessible by a hardy few, however, it’s worth remembering that heli-sightseers, trampers and climbers are very well-catered for in New Zealand already, particularly amongst our highest and most spectacular peaks.
One need only look at how Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland/Tai Poutini national parks are over-run with helicopters to see that. Or indeed, if one wants ease and comfort, why not go for a drive along the Milford Road which passes right through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the country? Or spend a few days in Queenstown, which is set amongst stunning alpine scenery. And if one wants to get away from roads, the Great Walks presents a fantastic opportunity to experience the hills in comfort.
I would like to suggest an alternative to Cotter’s vision for the future. How about we work towards a more sympathetic relationship with our hills, one that works with the land, that is equitable and environmentally sustainable. For instance, I have no problem with enhancing access in places like the Tasman Valley. With a bit of engineering and vision, a benched track could be readily built up the east side valley on tussock terraces right through to the Beetham and beyond.
A Euro-style hut in the Beetham to get more people into the area would get my full support. Some may argue this would spoil the pristine nature of the area, but to my mind, there’s nothing pristine about allowing up to 200 helicopter landings a day in the valley (see the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park draft management plan) – on a par with the likes of Dunedin Airport.
– James Thornton, email
Retain character with hut upgrades
I think all trampers would do well to put pressure on DOC to make sure it doesn’t do crass alterations that are totally out of keeping with the ‘flavour’ of our older huts.
Here is an example from a trip this August to Oturere Hut in Tongariro National Park. The white doors just stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. Functional, cheap and ugly. Talk about the false economy; the doors probably aren’t that old but are already badly chipped at the bases.
One way we could influence DOC to make sensitive choices would be to invite readers’ comments or photos on changes they’ve seen (good and bad) in huts they’ve visited, perhaps as an ongoing theme or a one-off topic.
I would hate to see the character of our older huts destroyed in the name of economy and convenience.
– Chris Fetto, email
A guide to the TA, please
Thanks for the Great Walk special feature. I have walked all of them and for me, doing the Milford Track in winter was a standout.
Maybe an idea for a future feature could be the Te Araroa Trail for Kiwis?
I’m in the process of cherry-picking the TA and walked from Tekapo to Queenstown last year, which provides a great cross-section of what the trail offers: wild country, beautiful towns, big landscape interspersed with pretty rural road walking. It’s section-walking at its best – long enough to feel like you’re a long distance walker, yet you don’t need to give up three months and ditch your life to do it.
The next bit I walk will be Waiau Pass – it’ll have to be next year now as this summer I’m doing the Hollyford and Dusky tracks in one long trip.
– Tony Doy, email
In regard to the debate about Bible’s in huts, I have been using our beautiful mountain huts since the 1960s for both tramping and hunting.
In almost every hut there has been a huge variety of reading material for stormy days and nights – it can include just about anything from the Reader’s Digest to Playboy, hunting books, cowboy paperbacks and Wilderness magazine.
I would think that if any individual doesn’t like any given book or magazine in a hut, then they’d just do the decent and respectful thing by leaving it alone and ignoring it.
Many trampers and hunters do find some sort of spiritual solace in the mountains and they should be free to read spiritually-oriented material placed in a hut without being dictated to.
– Dr Dave Baldwin, email
I have to say that I am shocked and disgusted by the suggestion to burn bibles or use them as toilet paper (Pigeon Post, November 2018). To talk of ‘contaminating the bush’ as one correspondent does is ridiculous. No-one has to look at a bible if they do not want to.
I am not a practising Christian, but I can tell you that if I saw a bible being treated in this way I would object quite forcefully.
– AH Allen, Morrinsville
Tarawera deserving of Great Walk status
I recently asked my 40-year-old son what was his best holiday memory. His answer: “When we went with our friends to Mt Tarawera for the day, walking the track and then down into the crater. I’ll never forget it.”
Yes, it was a great day. Taking three steps we slid into the crater, our whoops of joy evidence of the pleasure and fun – taking one step forward and three steps backwards on the climb out was not so much fun. But it is an incredible experience for families of all ages. Children present on the day ranged from 9 to 13.
The more we can encourage family trips the better, especially those easily achieved which introduce young people to the great outdoors.
So it was with some disbelief that I read that Mt Tarawera had not been chosen for the site of New Zealand’s next Great Walk.
– Ann Kidd, email