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February 2017 Issue
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Pigeon Post, February 2017

Our 'letter of the month' correspondent receives a Suunto MC 2 Global compass worth $129.90
Neglected Ruahines

My friend and I walked the main range of the Ruahine Range over seven days just before Christmas.

This exhilarating trip started at Comet Hut and went all the way to Heritage Lodge; a distance of around 100km. We passed dozens of signs and tracks leading to a large number of huts, shelters and bivvies.

As we were heading for Sparrowhawk Bivvy, the wind was picking up; by the time we had arrived it was very severe. This brilliant little sanctuary was our refuge for two nights. While the cloud was low and winds were howling, we stayed safe, warm and dry.

We passed the time reading the hut book. We read of Kaiapoi and his DOC team from Ongaonga who had been up to paint this well-loved dwelling. Later in the book, we read they had come back to check the tank water as someone had complained about its taste. They emptied and cleaned the tank, leaving some bottled water on hand if needed. Also in the book was a polite request asking if DOC could possibly trim some leatherwood in the dips between Sparrowhawk and Sunrise.

Returning home, the January issue of Wilderness was waiting for me. I was sad to read of DOC’s poor decision to completely close Ongaonga (‘Trampers cry foul over Ruahine neglect’, Walkshorts). It got me thinking about all the great work carried out by Kaiapoi and his team that I had seen over the years of my tramping.

Earlier in the year, we were at Colenso Hut and were very grateful for the efforts Kaiapoi had gone to cutting the track up the Mangatera Stream leading to Potae. I know the list of work done by the Ongaonga Field Base was immense as I have seen a lot of the results. In fact, it doesn’t seem that long ago when the wheelbarrows were building the benched track to Sunrise.

I would like to say a big thank you to all who worked at the Ongaonga Field Base for their genuine hard work. Though, it is worrying to know how or if the spouting on the Maropea Forks Hut will get fixed before next winter. It was ripped off with the heavy snowfall last winter. Or if we will ever cross the farm at the end of Wakarara Road end to get to the Makaroro River again. The staff and their knowledge and understanding of our Ruahines is irreplaceable.

On our tramp we passed hundreds of stoat traps; not one maintained by the caretakers of the park, but instead by volunteers. DOC will be doing less and less. We, the users of the park, are going to have to work together and get creative if we want to maintain what assets we have left.

– Geoff Phillips, Palmerston North

Geoff receives a Suunto MC 2 Global compass worth $129.90 from Readers, send your letter to for a chance to win.

Responsible cyclists wear helmets

We are about to venture south for a cycling trip and thought the article ‘Ride your first cycle trail’ (December 2016) would be an interesting read. However, I was extremely disappointed in the choice of one of the photos placed within the article. It pictured a group of three riders, with their helmets hanging from the handlebars.

Our family cycles a lot and I am ashamed that you should be advocating this type of behavior in your publication. Helmets should be worn at all times when on a bike. Even if it is not illegal on private roads, it is certainly not a good look, not safe, and not one that I think we should be encouraging.

I certainly hope that you take a more responsible approach towards cycle safety in the future as I really enjoy reading your magazine.

– Bronwyn McKinnon, email

Don’t write off the Hawke’s Bay

Biking is indeed a great option for outdoor recreation, for all ages (‘Editorial’, December 2016). While walking the Old Ghost Road recently, we met with three Christchurch dads and their teenage sons and daughters having a great time riding. I wondered if perhaps the teens’ grins would be so wide if they were walking and carrying a pack instead of riding.

However, while you are quite correct that Hawke’s Bay is not the North Island’s tramping answer to Fiordland, I feel I should defend the region where I once lived. There are the river valleys and tussock tops of the Ruahine and Kaweka Forest Parks – days and days of great tramping. For shorter walks, the old podocarp forest of White Pine Bush, Boundary Stream Reserve (now a ‘mainland island’ full of birdlife) and spectacular Bells Rock, all just north of Napier, are worth a look.

And a quick note, the article in the same issue, ‘How to raise adventurous girls’ is somewhat patronising. Would you like me to send a list of all the independent, confident, adventurous, outdoor girls and women I know? I can tell you, it would be a very long list.

– Kathy Ombler, email

The value of (un)improvements

I take issue with Ann Brower on the High Country Tenure Review process (‘Making millions from high country farming’, October 2016).

The article leaves out any explanation regarding the valuation of pastoral lease land, and the disparity between the values of both leasehold and freehold title in coming to an agreed settlement with high country farmers. Readers are left wondering if tenure review has been a fair and reasonable process for taxpayers and recreational users.

Pastoral leases were given in perpetuity to farmers with exclusive rights to occupy the land for pastoral farming purposes. Rents were typically set at between 1.5 and 2.25 per cent of unimproved value; the value of the land before any improvement to it. Why only unimproved value? The farmers own the improvements. The fences, roads, buildings, water supplies, improved pasture; have all been paid for by the farmer, and they were free to on-sell the lease rights along with the value of their improvements.

Tenure review is a voluntary process for farmers who wish to relinquish leasehold title to some less productive land, in exchange for freehold title to more productive land.

Yes, farmers have freehold title to some more valuable land, but they already owned the improvements, and proportionally the crown’s interest, as lessor, in the total land value is minimal. It should not imply that taxpayers have been short-changed – New Zealanders now have the benefit of free access to some priceless high country estate.

Brower also alludes to farmers subdividing their newly freehold land, and on-selling at an exorbitant amount. Again, some perspective is needed. The Crown had not ‘sold the farm’ to the farmers. The farmers already own all the property’s improvements, but with a leasehold title. The Crown has only sold them ‘freehold title’ to what they already own. Once ‘freehold’, the farmers are free to on-sell to anyone at a market price, subject to the normal subdivision regulations.

– Peter Karam, Cambridge