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May 2013 Issue
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Pigeon Post, May 2013

Letter of the month

Ghost Road is for everyone

I can’t comment on the Seddonville end of the Ghost Road Track, but the description by Pete Lusk (‘Wild Comment’, March 2013) that it is ‘not a bike track for the fainthearted’ certainly doesn’t apply to the Lyell side – a relatively easy walking and biking track.

I recently had a fantastic day ride with friends and a family group as far as the track went to the Rocky Tor area. The track is well made, wide, non-technical and benched and gave us a great 26km downhill ride.

When the track is completed it’ll be a great asset for the region, making an area that’s worthy of protection accessible to many and providing much-needed income to communities at either end. Our party, for example, stayed two nights in Murchison, had a meal out and bought petrol at the garage.

It’s great to see something new and substantial on the West Coast.

– Barbara Brown, Christchurch


In defence of the Ghost Road

It was sad to read the extremely negative Ghost Road article by Peter Lusk (March, 2013) and an insult to the Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust board and their core group of dedicated volunteers. They have toiled for thousands of hours to plan, fund-raise and build the track. They have endured the worst and the best of the West Coast climate and battled through difficult terrain to give the public of New Zealand an amazing trail through stunning country that would otherwise be only accessible to the hardy few.

Contrary to the dangerous label Lusk gave the track, 15-year-old Zoe Arts rode the track recently and didn’t find it scary or dangerous. Cycling to school on Christchurch’s road works-ravaged streets is statistically far more dangerous than any backcountry experience.

It’s inspiring to see the group of outdoor enthusiasts all around the country developing these tracks and trails, restoring old huts and recovering historic relics for all to enjoy. Anything that encourages more Kiwis into the outdoors by bike or on foot should be applauded and the value of the conservation estate will rise accordingly.

Or maybe DOC should invest its diminishing allocation of funds into New Zealand’s most popular recreational destination – shopping malls – and leave the conservation estate to monorails, gondolas, tunnels and mining companies.

– Dave Mitchell, Christchurch

Retailers failing to adapt

There are two good reasons why consumers of outdoor gear are turning to the internet, (‘Crunch Time for Independent Retailers’, April 2013) the first of which is price.

Once upon a time, consumers had no chance to compare international prices. Now they know that a $700 pair of boots in New Zealand is $350 in the United States. Not just on Amazon, but throughout the entire US retail network. And that the exchange rate goes nowhere near to accounting for the difference.

The second reason is choice. Ben Sinclair of Living Simply may have a ‘huge footwear wall’ but the majority of outdoor retailers in this country carry a very limited range of footwear brands and sizes. Try buying a pair of boots in a size US14 in the average outdoor store and see how much choice you’re offered. On Amazon it’s extensive.

The internet is not killing the retailer nor, as your article seems to suggest, are consumers. What’s killing retailers is their failure to adapt to a radically changed marketplace. Old-fashioned personal service is redundant. And anyway, the retail expert was always a mythical figure, existing far more in the wish than the fulfilment.

It’s very telling that, according to the article, distributors and independent retailers are still debating whether to start their own websites when it’s been clear for at least a decade that the future of retailing is online.

Entrepreneurial outdoor retailers who launch dynamic websites featuring product ranges as comprehensive as REI’s, Zappo’s or any other American retailer, at equivalent prices, supported by a spectrum of online services from fitting advice to money-back guarantee, will prosper.

Until then, the next time I need a pair of boots I’ll stay at home and ask Google.

– David Murphy, Greytown

Monorail decision declined?

I note that among the first huts to be painted under DOC’s recently-announced $1.5 million partnership with Dulux New Zealand (‘Walkshorts’, April 2013) is Kiwi Burn Hut in Snowdon Forest.

Does this indicate that the final report on the monorail concession application recommends that it be declined? The selection of Kiwi Burn Hut to be painted would certainly tie in with this given the whisper that both the monorail and tunnel concession applicants received copies of the draft final reports before last Christmas.

It the monorail goes ahead, there would be little point in painting the hut.

Might it also be why the new Minister of Conservation has taken back responsibility for making the final decision on both applications?

– Wynston Cooper, email

Dig deep and pay hut fees

I feel compelled to comment about Peter Lusk’s refusal to pay hut fees under the slogan ‘you’ve already paid through your taxes’ (‘Wild Comment’, April 2013). Does he not understand that a large proportion of taxes are being spent elsewhere and that current DOC funding is insufficient?

Who will subsidise his hut use? The reality is that DOC is under-resourced and unless we pay hut fees our ‘treasured huts and track system’ is at risk. Lusk should not look at hut fees as being an extra tax, but more a donation to support existing backcountry infrastructure.

I also don’t believe those of us who pay hut fees are supporting privatisation, as suggested. Rather, we are supporting publicly-owned recreational assets to remain as such.

C’mon Pete, dig deep and pay your fees. Our huts and tracks could disappear, despite the fact you’ve already paid your taxes.

– John Kristiansen, Auckland

Waterproof maps

I recently discovered a company called SpotX has produced a range of fishing-related maps which are both waterproof and tearproof. What a great evolution for maps, I thought.

At a time when digital topo maps can be downloaded to GPS devices and smart phones, some might say maps are old school. But while new technology is great, when it comes to planning a route and/or a backup to battery-powered devices, a map is still the best option.

I contacted LINZ and asked if it had had considered printing waterproof maps? A very pleasantly worded email came back stating there wasn’t a demand for waterproof, tearproof maps and therefore it wasn’t being considered.

LINZ clearly does not understand this section of their client base. Every tramper in this country should want maps that are not going to turn into paper maché if we don’t give them special treatment. This goes beyond convenience, it goes to safety!

If you agree with me, why not drop LINZ an email saying so:

Who knows, you might get a pleasantly worded reply, or even better, waterproof maps.

– Dana Hemingway, Auckland