The Wellington branch of the Te Araroa Trust is concerned for the safety of TA walkers heading through the Tararua Ranges and is calling for upgrades to huts and tracks.
Te Araroa Wellington trustee Debby McColl said the trust has become concerned from feedback from TA walkers, trust members, and other interest groups. Some huts in the ranges were regularly over capacity and there was a lack of campsites as alternatives, which created a safety risk on the often stormy tops.
“The Tararua section of the trail is a serious endeavour and the weather can be appalling, so these basic health and safety issues need to be addressed,” McColl said.
“Nichols Hut only has six bunks, but we’ve heard sometimes 12 people are trying to sleep in there because there are no camping sites. While at Te Matawai Hut, we’ve heard the water tank isn’t big enough for the number of people on the trail and it’s been empty at times. There’s no other water source nearby, except at the bottom of the valley, over an hour away.”
She said a number of mattresses were also covered in mould at Te Matawai Hut and deep mud and windfall on the tracks was an issue.
“These are major concerns for the trust.”
Wairarapa operations manager Kathy Houkamau said DOC would review the infrastructure, but said the Tararua Forest Park was for experienced trampers “who want to experience nature in its true form with very basic facilities”.
“DOC periodically reviews the visitor numbers and surveys for expectations to see if demand and visitor expectations are changing. If there is increased demand we can look at the options for addressing it.”
She said the tracks in the area would be upgraded before the end of March and new mattresses had been ordered for Te Matawai Hut.
“While staff are replacing the mattresses they will check the water tank, line and taps for leaks.”
Staff would also review the number of visitor nights at Te Matawai and Nichols huts to see if the facilities needed to be upgraded.
“If demand is increasing, we will look at the options,” Houkamau said.
But she said it would be difficult to create further campsites, due to the steep terrain.
“It’s very much the nature of the country the trail passes through, so we advise trampers to plan their trip accordingly.”