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June 2014 Issue
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Pigeon Post, June 2014

Haast-Hollyford Road

I take issue with several statements reported in the article on the proposed Haast-Hollyford road.
Developer Durham Havill is quoted as saying: “We also have to cater for people who will never see this environment unless there’s a road through it.”

Actually we don’t have to. Should we also build a road to the top of Aoraki so people can see the view? Or into the glow-worm grotto at Waitomo? With maturity comes the realisation that everyone can’t go everywhere by vehicle.
He is also quoted as believing the unformed legal road was “illegally removed from maps”. Is there any legal requirement that maps show such roads? Makers of maps include and omit what they choose, from ‘terra incognita’ and ‘here be dragons’ to contour lines and historical sites.

This unformed legal road was merely one of the many good ideas at the time, primarily to allow the exporting of gold from Queenstown by bypassing Dunedin. Other ideas included release of possums and rabbits.

Southland District mayor Gary Tong claimed to be a greenie and said there are thousand of hectares of conservation land and national parks. Might I remind him that there are also thousands of kilometres of roads and we can build new roads but we can’t build new parks. True greenies are into preservation, not construction.

Ken Griffin, Auckland


Dramatic licence

Pat Barrett’s article ‘Rescue mission down the Hokitika’ (February, 2014) was a good read. As someone who has been roaming the various Hokitika River headwaters since 1971, I can identify with tales of challenging country and weather.

I wish to point out that there appears to have been dramatic licence taken regarding when tracks were last cut and huts last used prior to the December 1977 trip described. For the record, the Hokitika tracks between Bluff Hut and the Whitcombe Junction had been cut in the late 1960’s. There were some nasty slips to negotiate between Serpentine and Junction huts by 1977 though!

Frisco and Serpentine huts had been visited more recently than the 15 and 20 years ago suggested in the article. Deer cullers were using these huts up to and including the 1971 shooting season. After the ground-based cullers were pulled out and before Barrett’s December 1977 visit, the occasional NZFS employee and tramper visited these huts.

Glenn Johnston, former NZFS employee, Hokitika


Nightmare at Woolshed Creek Hut

I consider myself to be pretty laid back and it takes an awful lot to get me worked up and angry, but a recent overnighter to Woolshed Creek Hut in Mt Somers Conservation Area, was unbelievable, to say the least.

What started out as a leisurely hike for my partner and I to celebrate our fourth anniversary soon turned into a nightmare – a wide awake one.

Getting in at lunchtime, we chose our sleeping spot in a 12-person bunk room – little did we know who we would be sharing with: a couple and their two babies, the youngest being about 12 weeks old and the other about 18 months and not yet walking.

The hut was chock full of people and dinnertime was a hive of activity. By about 9pm everyone was settling down for a night of rest with people on the floor, under benches, on the balcony and some in tents.

Without a word of a lie, we were woken about 15 times during the night. It was a never-ending process involving a period of babies moaning, crying, lights on, ssshhhing from their mother and sometimes feeding.

In the morning, not even an apology.

I know these huts are there for all to enjoy, but to take such young children to a popular hut defies logic. I never took my daughter to stay overnight in a backcountry hut when she was a baby. You just don’t do it in consideration to everyone else staying there.

– Dean Williams, e-mail


Finding north with your watch

I have another method to Nathan Watson’s for finding north with a digital watch (Wild Skills, April, 2014): face the sun, remove the digital watch and throw it over your left shoulder. Another watch gone west! 

– Peter Vella, e-mail


Great acting

I always enjoy the range of subject matter in Wilderness but have to say the photo illustrating the story ‘Limp solutions’ (Wild skills, April, 2014) is a pearler. The expression and palpable anticipation of an above knee squeeze and tickle with clenched fingers is truly delightful. My family loved it.

– Derek Oakes, e-mail


Reason given for Heaphy hut replacement

In response to your correspondent John Langley (Pigeon Post, May, 2014), the new Heaphy and Perry Saddle huts were upgraded to meet DOC’s standards for Great Walks huts. Both huts were about 45 years old, poorly ventilated and had inadequate communal space for the increasing number of visitors using them. It was more practical and cost effective to replace them with new huts rather than revamp the old huts. The new huts have more bunks and increased space for cooking and dining, and are better insulated.  

James Mackay Hut is currently being replaced.  

The hut replacements are part of a programme of track improvements to benefit walkers and bikers on the Heaphy Track in line with standards set for Great Walks tracks. These also include new suspension bridges to replace the older-style single-person swingbridges, and improvements to the track surface.

DOC has also funded three single lane bridges in the Aorere Valley to allow walkers and bikers all-weather access to the track.

John Mason, DOC Takaka conservation services manager


On Haast-Hollyford Road

I wouldn’t worry about the Haast-Hollyford Road or the monorail (Conservation, May, 2014). Here are two very good reasons why neither will happen:

  1. New Zealand doesn’t have the population base for large-scale multi-million dollar private investment in infrastructure. We don’t have the population base of Australia, for example, where there is a lot of private sector investment in everything from roads and tunnels to prisons.
  2. Both the road and the monorail don’t have monopoly-like characteristics, which means for a potential investor their return on investment is questionable. Infrastructure as an investment only works if the developer has high barriers of entry or a market stronghold. The road and the monorail will have neither.

It is a shame the media attention has not focused on the economic irrationality of these projects. The debate regarding the road and the monorial has been portrayed as a trade-off between nature versus commerce like James Cameron’s Avatar.

Geoff Fairburn


Front packs praised

On my return from a four day tramp on the St James Walkway, I grabbed the latest issue of Wilderness for inspiration for the next tramp. The headline ‘Packs not like they used to be’ (Pigeon Post, May, 2014) caught my eye. Thank goodness they are not! My Mountain Mule, with the hollow frame that you could fill with fuel, was fine when I was young and fit, but these days I definitely am going for comfort and convenience.    

One of our party was aged 76 and he is my inspiration to keep going for many more years. I have used a variety of packs over the years, but so far nothing has surpassed my new Aarn pack with two front pockets. Not only is the weight balanced front and back, it is largely carried on the hips – so no sore shoulders. 

I am very surprised that this style of pack has not become more popular. Sure, the front pockets look different and spark a few comments from others on the trail, but once I give them a turn carrying my pack they soon appreciate the benefits of this style. 

Please include packs with front pockets in your next gear review on multi-day trip packs. I could go on singing its praises for another few pages at least.

– Charlotte Woods, Geraldine


Fishing season

Wow, I’m very disappointed with Wilderness! You publish five best trout spots (Waypoints, May, 2014) when the season has just closed! Season starts next November.

Another good spot for the bucket list is the Wangapeka River in Kaurangi National Park. Waimea Tramping Club had a recent weekend tramp there.  I went in a day early for some fishing. Fed the ‘multitudes’ when they arrived with a fillet braised in foil with garlic butter. They threatened to hide my boots, insisting I stay behind to catch and feed them fish while they went tramping.

Who needs enemies with friends like that/

– Peter Vella, email


Praise for positive project

I took out a subscription to Wilderness earlier this year and, on receiving the March edition, was surprised to see a recognisable photo and the accompanying article by Mick Abbott on The Old Ghost Road (Out There, March, 2014). 

Naturally, anyone would find favour with something that is generally complimentary about their efforts, but  my real gratitude and appreciation is that Abbott insightfully understands that these things, and particularly projects of such a large scale, take a massive effort and in our case is driven entirely out of our own spare time and therefore at considerable ‘life cost’. Perhaps for us the greatest payback is when people like Abbott visit, appreciate the effort and the great outdoors we have on offer. 

I would like to thank Abbott for visiting, congratulate him on his article and for being so positive about a well-intentioned project.  

Phil Rossiter, Chairman, Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust


Trouble with the tent

My wife Linda recently walked the Te Araroa trail, I was her support crew, and on the occasions that her and I met up and she wasnt hidden far away in the back country we had purchased a Kathmandu Taku tent to use.
 We had spent a while picking a suitable tent and got bed rolls etc to fit it as this would be Linda’s comfy tent stop when she would meet up with me.
But after perhaps erecting the tent 20 times and now in the South Island we had poles break on four different occasions and this was in very light winds, I was next to the tent one time when crack!! one just decided it was time to let go.
I went to Kathmandu in Blenheim after the first two broke, where the manager was very helpfull and gave me several spare pole sections.
I called into Kathmandu head office in Christchurch on two occasions and they eventually accepted that the tent was faulty and we finaly got a refund, shame that we were left without a tent.
I emailed them two weeks ago and no response, shame about that also.
Just be aware that this type of problem can occur and I have heard of other Kathmandu tents having the same problem

-Evan Pugh

Kathmandu responds:

Dear Evan,
The team here at Kathmandu take great pride in designing and developing quality products, so we were extremely disappointed to learn of your experience. Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience to you and your wife.  
We understand from our Customer Service team that they endeavoured to address the problem by providing you with replacement poles and a fly. However as the tent was by then over two years old, and had been replaced by a new model, we were unable to source a replacement Taku so a full refund was provided. If you’re not fully satisfied with this outcome our Customer Service team would be very happy to respond to your query (email <>  or phone 0800 001 234).
We are always very grateful for any feedback on our products to enable continual improvement. Please be assured this issue has been elevated to all concerned parties to ensure we do all we can to avoid this happening in future. Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with us directly and to write this letter to Wilderness.
Yours sincerely
-Ian Babington
Customer Service Centre Manager