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January 2014 Issue
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Pigeon Post, January 2014

Letter of the month

Activate PLBs without fear of reprimand

It’s great to see Nigel Clifford, head of the RCCNZ, highlighting the care taken to avoid chastising people for activating PLBs (‘Technology that can save your life’, December 2013). I hope this means we’ll see no more RCCNZ press releases like Clifford’s of February 8, 2013.

That release went beyond general criticism of a Nelson man for activating a PLB. Its headline ‘slammed’ him for ‘apparently’ misusing a beacon, claiming he was running late and wanted a ride to his car. It said Maritime NZ was considering action, suggesting a possible $30,000 fine. The release shot through newswires, conveying little more for public consumption than inflammatory one-sided hearsay, seemingly derived from a pilot’s report of what the man may have said of his situation on a whim. Within a day, having interviewed the pilot, media fanned flames of public disgust by alluding to the man’s identity.

Four months later, the RCCNZ dropped threats of prosecution, noting a ‘thorough investigation’ had decided activation was justified.

The $30,000 sum is a theoretical maximum fine under regulations designed to protect the radio spectrum rather than address misuse of rescue resources. Threats like this could discourage people from carrying PLBs and as Mr Clifford states, hoax activations are non-existent. People activating PLBs believe they’re in trouble and threats of legal action could only add confusion.

A more constructive approach would be to promote preventative safety alongside PLBs, like the Outdoor Safety Code, to improve people’s abilities to recognise troubling situations and to avoid them.

I’m proud of our world class SAR services, but the safety of rescuers and rescued relies on people not being too confused or afraid to request help when they need it.

– Mike McGavin, Wellington

Stick to the knitting

Frankly I couldn’t care less what a [former] Green Party candidate like Craig Potton has to say on any subject (Walkshorts, December 2013). His utterances are predictable and his allegiances should have been spelt out to all readers.

I doubt Peter Jackson has tramped anywhere on the planet, looking at his girth. He’s more attuned to riding shotgun in a noisy helicopter to get into the back-blocks.

My first point is simple: You could equally have drummed-up a range of so-called prominent New Zealanders who would back the monorail scheme to add balance to this article.

My second point is: Readers like me are for the monorail. We don’t buy your magazine to read politicking, unbalanced positions that run rough shod over our views which just happen, presumably, to be contrary to that of your editorial staff.

Please stick to the knitting.

– Paul Gilbert, e-mail

Support lost over hut fees article

After many years, I am not renewing my subscription to Wilderness. I was appalled to read the article ‘The worth of a back country hut’ (April, 2013) in which author Pete Lusk advocated that backcountry hut users should not pay hut fees.

I cannot see the point of such an article and I have concluded the editor was being mischievous. It is not the type of article I would have expected from a hitherto responsible magazine.

I have noted in the article that Lusk sneaked back to use the hut toilet. This is commonly called bludging. Lusk wants all the mod cons but doesn’t want to contribute to the cost of the facilities, which says more about him than the system.

In today’s ‘user pays’ environment, all we are talking about is a small affordable sum for hut fees in return for warm, dry and well-maintained facilities. Surely, this is not too much to ask.

I am a volunteer hut warden on the Whanganui River Great Walk and have been for 10 years. Fees collected there do not cover costs of maintaining two huts and numerous campgrounds by a long chalk. The good old taxpayer forks out the rest.

I would have thought it responsible had your editor focused on more positive things than rubbish like this.

– Bernie Rowe, Wellington

– Pete Lusk’s article was his own opinion, not that of Wilderness. Shaun Barnett wrote a counter opinion, arguing why we should pay hut fees, in the June 2013 issue. – AH

Minority risk

The article ‘Ethnic diversity in the hills’ (December 2013) prompted a memory from nearly 30 years ago, when my wife and I with our two children were returning from a day tramp to Ketetahi Springs in Tongariro National Park.

We were bemused to encounter a group of young adult Asian people in street clothes and footwear heading towards the springs in the late afternoon. Even more so when they asked us if there was a café up ahead! We tried our best to convey the true situation, but moved on as the group continued on their merry way.

I guess if visitors don’t know what to expect in the New Zealand backcountry they may run into difficulty.

– John McAllister, e-mail

Monorail monoculture

Though I live in Belgium, I have a subscription to Wilderness and have been reading the various articles published on the Snowdon monorail proposal.

It is strange, perhaps, to feel anxiety over matters on the other side of the world. But such are the memories New Zealand bestowed on my wife and I that our heart considers it as a home away from home.

We had the good fortune to spend 20 months in New Zealand during which tramping was our main activity. At first we felt uncertain, even reluctant, to venture into the backcountry, being not used to the immensity of it all. But we were drawn to those majestic mountains, rising in splendour above dense forests and valleys in which glistening rivers still freely find their way to the ocean. For us, witnessing those landscapes, seemingly unvanquished by human endeavour, was like straying into a dream no matter how challenging the terrain.

In comparison with Belgium, overrun with people and overwhelmed by roads, factories and concrete, New Zealand seems pure and pristine.

It is sad, with the Snowdon monorail, to see things are all too often balanced in the scale of economics and material wealth. If not even World Heritage Areas or national parks can be left untroubled why do we give them such names? Do we want to convince ourselves we are at least trying?

We hope that not everything will have to endure the impact of human whimsies just because it is possible. We hope that people will learn that not everything is to be measured in money and gain, and that nature, left unsullied, can be discovered in more simple ways.

This can also bear testimony to progress, though more within ourselves.

– Dominique Ghijselinck, Belgium