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June 2012 Issue
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Pigeon Post, June 2012

Theme park nation

I think it is timely for us to join together in expressing our disgust for the proposed ‘Fiordland Theme Park’ (Out There, April 2012)

As avid aging explorers of our stunning country, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are selling our soul for a quick buck for a few. There is a misconception that tourism means making our wilderness easily accessible to all.

Having run a bed and breakfast for 17 years, we have listened to overseas guests who are adamant in their expressions of enthusiasm for discovering the hidden delights of less easily accessed corners of our land. They love the charm of the winding unsealed roads of the Coromandel coast and the ambient charm of any pioneering history they discover. They enjoy the challenge of discovery, in particular in areas yet unpenetrated by the corporate dollar.

What on earth will happen if the road to Waikaremoana is sealed (Walkshorts, May 2012)? What nonsense for this to be even considered! New Zealanders and discerning tourists will lose yet another natural gem to the opportunists keen to extract money from the hoards who come here to take what they can, for as little as they can. Another pristine area will become overrun by those who have no deep connection with our land.

Sorry if this sounds rough but we have seen multitudes of such tourists in our travels who are here to exploit our stupidity and greed for a few fast dollars.

It is time to again raise awareness of the way DOC is selling our soul to make money . A tourist tax at our border, going directly to DOC would  cover all of this department`s fantastic projects, walkways and infinite extras tourists benefit from, thus eliminating need for the increasing privatisation of our National Parks, and any proposed National Park entry fee.

– Dianne Blumhardt Mckinnon, Thames

The Magnificent Peaks of Breast Hill

Working full-time in a ridiculously busy café at a ski resort didn’t give me many daylight hours to enjoy Wanaka last winter.  But when the slopes finally cleared, and the snow started running off in rivers at the beginning of October, the time had come to explore.
A few fellow baristas and I decided to head up Breast Hill on the other side of Lake Hawea. Intermediate terrain, some wind and bits of snow, but certainly doable. It also had a great name for our all-female group.
Wwe set off with high expectations. It was a sizzler for the time of year, so we slathered on the sunscreen and laboriously trekked up the very steep first kilometer, where we soon lost track of the switchbacks. An aging couple appeared above us, the man with a large potbelly. They smiled as they neared, bounding down like mountain goats without a drop of sweat in sight. “You think this is tough?” he laughed as we guzzled our water and wiped sweat from our faces. “You’re just getting started!”
Oh, was he right. We saw a small rocky peak in front of us with an orange marker barely visible at the top. “We can do this, no problem!” I enthusiastically shouted. But when we stepped up to the top, our feeling of satisfaction and achievement quickly faded as another peak, even higher, loomed beyond.
By the time we got to Pakituhi Hut and slumped onto the bunks, our Irish friend smiled as she pulled out a flask: “Anyone for a wee drop o’ brandy?” And we all grinned.

– Martha Burwell, email

Another good ride in Taranaki

A couple of corrections regarding the Rerekapa Track section of the article published in Wild Trips (April 2012). The DOC camping ground mentioned doesn’t exist anymore and the hut referred to as a DOC hut is actually a private hut owned by the Irwins who farm the pasture area. From the east it’s a good mountain bike ride as far as the Rerekapa (Boys Brigade) Hut. We left our bikes there and walked up to the saddle since the track was difficult in places for bikes.

Another good Taranaki ride is the continuation of Lakes Rd, past Lake Mangawhio. Leave your car anywhere along Lakes Rd, or if 4WD take it to just past the lake. The track is the old legal road which was the access into the Waitotara Valley. From the farmland just past the lake, the track is an easy grade with the occasional windfall (don’t take the steeper bulldozed track). It winds up to the ridge and an area of young pines planted in pasture. This overlooks the Waitotara Valley. From here you can continue along the ridge and take the right-hand branch down to the valley (at Tawhiwhi). It would be a grunt retracing your route, or you could leave another vehicle at Tawhiwhi.

– Terry Crippen, Palmerston North

DOC spend-up misplaced

I read in the May issue that DOC is about to spend $250,000 on up-grades to the Waikareiti and Wakaremoana Tracks. Last time I visited these areas, the tracks were footpaths and the huts palatial. Once again I am annoyed at the preference by DOC to pour its limited resources into the Great Walks at the expense of maintenance on our beautiful backcountry routes. My home ground is Te Urewera/Whirinaki/Uratawa and I’ve visited most of the huts in the area. While I realise there are inadequate resources for such a huge area, I would like to be able to get to the remote huts without the expense of a chopper. Like most trampers, I am happy to go up streams, ford rivers, slog through mud, climb over tree-fall, do a bit of bush-bashing, and navigate routes, but it would be nice to find markers without having to carry a scythe or an axe.

I recently went into the Waiau Valley, east of Lake Waikaremoana – a beautiful area that seems to be completely neglected by DOC. Streams and rivers come up quickly with any rain, so the overland routes are the best option. DOC, to be fair, has spruced up the historic Te Totara Hut but, unlike the Anne Hut in St James Conservation Area, the Parahaki Hut was not rebuilt. Surely the insurance of the deceased tourist who burnt it down in 2007 would have covered replacement cost?

The route to the Parahaki Hut Site is used by a possumer, so is not in bad condition, but the track from there to Central Waiau Hut, marked on the new map, is overgrown and I expect it’s the same over the Blue Slip to Te Waiotukapiti Hut. The track on the Pukekohu Range has not seen maintenance for years. Many tracks in Te Urewera show the same neglect. Perhaps if Te Urewera was given back to Tuhoe, we’d see some improvements?

– Ruth McIntosh, email

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