Te Araroa Trust and New Zealand Walking Access Commission have joined forces to improve Aotearoa’s 3000km thru-hike.
The partnership will give the trust access to the commission’s resources and staff, including its digital mapping team and regional field advisors, though chief executive officer of Te Araroa Mark Weatherall said the trust will retain independence and its existing board of trustees.
“The difference is that we now have a Crown agency supporting us in our day-to-day work,” he said.
The partnership has relieved some of the financial pressure facing the trust, though Weatherall said it doesn’t lessen its reliance on supporters and donations.
“The key thing is that every dollar we raise will now – hand on heart – go directly back to the maintenance and enhancement of the trail, as the funding covers our overheads,” he said.
A number of walkers have already set off from Cape Reinga this month, though Weatherall is expecting a quiet season with around half the usual numbers.
“I get phone calls and emails every day asking when we will open the borders,” he said. “It’s a real neat opportunity for Kiwis to get out and do it, and they won’t have to share the track with many people.
“After we’ve seen year on year growth, it also gives us an opportunity to address some track issues without too much pressure.”
Tracks through Northland and Waikato regions are the trust’s top priority for improvement, Weatherall said.