Image of the July 2011 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
July 2011 Issue
Home / Articles / Pigeon Post

Pigeon Post, July 2011

- Peter receives a pair of Leki Softlite poles ($99.95) courtesy of Marvelox Adventure ( for his letter. Readers, send your letter to the editor for a chance to win.

Letter of the month

Tracks can be for everyone

In response to Betty Stockman’s concern about mountain biking and walking on the same tracks (April, 2011), I understand that while off-road cyclists are a relatively modern phenomenon, most walkers appreciate that the more people there are using the tracks, the more funding there will be for new routes and maintenance, which benefits everyone.

For example, Betty does a grand job organising the Taupo Monday Walkers, a group of up to 50 people who regularly walk both the Whakaipo to Kinloch cycle track and the Whirinaki Cycle Track. I understand the group is also interested in having a look at the Central North Island Rail Trail – another purpose-built cycle trail.

It would be hypocritical to thus enjoy, as a walker, the facilities that were provided for cyclists but to resent cyclists doing the same on suitable paths that were originally provided for walking.

There are immensely more walking-only than cycling tracks in New Zealand, including many in the Taupo area which are bike-free. It’s possible for walkers to avoid shared-use routes altogether if they wish. I enjoy both walking and biking and, in the main, have found bikers considerate and cheerful track users.

– Barbara Morris, Taupo

Tramping clubs dying out

I read the article about the rise of internet hiking clubs (June, 2011) with some interest. I have belonged to the older style hiking clubs in the past and more recently embraced the more social internet groups.

Having recently joined a Meetup hiking group (not mentioned in your article), I have been very impressed by their attitude, preparation, risk management and comprehensive first aid knowledge.

When I mentioned your article to the leaders, it was with surprise that I learnt that they were also interviewed by (Wilderness writer) Josh Gale, and despite their high standards of responsibility for the safety of their members, their comments are glaringly absent from the article.

It is thus with sadness that I realise Gale is clearly writing with a bias towards the traditional tramping clubs, and perhaps this is even the dying gasp in response to change that the people clearly want?

Can I trust any of the information in what I thought was an excellent Kiwi outdoor magazine?

– Ted (surname withheld), Auckland

– And can we trust someone who won’t reveal their surname? For the record, Josh Gale’s article included quotes from all the Meetup group leaders he interviewed. – AH.

There’s life in the clubs yet

Josh Gale’s feature, ‘Tramping clubs 2.0’ (June, 2011), highlighting declining club membership is a problem for most clubs, not just tramping clubs. For Auckland Tramping Club, the website has proved to be our best communication tool and in the past four years membership has stabilised. The homepage gives a clear outline of the benefits of club membership.

One of the most striking differences between clubs and the [online] Meetup model is management of safety of members and visitors. The Meetup approach that ‘everyone’s responsible for themselves’ has its risks, as demonstrated by the reported accident. Clubs on the other hand take the time to minimise risks, through training leaders and ensuring members appreciate that personal responsibility extends to being fit for the grade of tramp with the correct gear. One poorly prepared individual can impact on the group and potentially put others at risk.

All club tramps are graded for various levels of fitness and objectives. Our advice is to start with easy tramps, but there is demand for faster tramps as many members enjoy extending themselves in the outdoors rather than in a gym. During summer the club runs a variety of tramps in the South Island, so all members have the opportunity to experience New Zealand’s beautiful back country.

Always friendship and fun is important. Once when tramping in the Kawekas we came to a hunters’ hut and they invited us in for a coffee. The water was already boiling and I asked ‘Did you know we were coming’. They replied ‘Of course, we could hear you coming for miles!’

– Graeme McGowan, Auckland Tramping Club

Scrooge McTrampers

I was astonished to read the results of the reader survey that reported respondents thought hut fees were too high (June, 2011).

How can $5 a night be too high? How can they afford their Wilderness subscription? And children under 18 are half price! Even better value if you do a bit of tramping is the annual hut pass with the FMC discount (when you belong to a club). This is so cheap as to be almost free.

I am just back from the Heaphy and at $30 per night, how long before DOC recoups the cost of building those new huts announced in this same issue of Wilderness?

Profit is not DOC’s objective of course but what price for shelter and a bed at some of the best locations in the world?

I am definitely not advocating a user pays price (which would probably be at least 10 times the current) nor am I a DOC apologist but $5 is cheap any way you look at it. We should recognise how extraordinarily lucky we are that we can have a truly remote week in some of the most beautiful country on the planet and it costs only $30 (GST inc).

– Bruce MacKenzie, Maraetai

– For the record, huts are free for under18s and the question on the reader survey specifically referred to huts costing $31.50 per night and the more expensive Great Walk huts. We believe most readers would agree that $5 a night is cheap.

Green Lake pinpointed

An excellent article on winter tramping by Mark Banham (May, 2011). Green Lake, however, hasn’t been in Otago since the abolition of the provinces in 1872. It is in Fiordland National Park and is part of the Southland region.

– Wynston Cooper, Invercargill


  • The hut on p16 of the June issue was incorrectly identified as McGregor Biv. It is actually Frew Biv on the West Coast.
  • In our ‘Winter trips to get you pumped’ article, also in June, we implied while walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing that you could soak in the Ketetahi hot springs. The springs are on private Maori land and are not accessible to the public.

DOCs priorities leave locals in the cold

Kahurangi National Park contains exquisite, remote areas including the Douglas Range described in Wilderness (April, 2011). The Golden Bay Alpine and Tramping Club, now in its 51st year, had its origins in a group of individuals who re-cut the old track (‘Brown Cow’) up to Boulder Lake and built a hut there.

Today it seems we must return to our roots. Just after Christmas, the area suffered massive flooding. A month later, high winds added to the devastation. Despite having funds to replace three huts and several sound bridges on the Heaphy (June, 2011), DOC seems to have neither the funds nor the will to clear tracks. Examples include the track up Parapara Peak and the track to Shakespeare Flat in the Aorere Valley (both popular day walks for locals). Clearing windfall between the Anatoki River and Lake Stanley is on the back burner, and as for reinstating the short track near Roaring Lion Hut, dream on!

I assert that the balance has tipped too far in favour of routes featured in Lonely Planet guides at the expense of the maintenance of our more remote heritage of tracks and small huts. Should the adoption of a hut or track by clubs or concerned individuals once again become the norm?

Mind you, this matter pales into insignificance in the face of prospecting applications such as the recent one (now scaled back) by Greywolf which covered the seabed from Abel Tasman National Park, past Farewell Spit Nature Reserve, down the coast of Kahurangi National Park to Greymouth and land within the Western and the Northern edge of Kahurangi National Park including around the Heaphy Track. Our feckless local (National) MP supported this, seeming not to value our very unique, wonderful and irreplaceable heritage.

– John Pemberton, Golden Bay