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Tent sales expected to soar as DOC closes all huts over winter

Pack your tent, huts are a no-go this winter. Photo: istock/JJ van Ginkel

A round-up of news from the wild

Every backcountry hut in New Zealand will close for three months this winter, part of an economic stimulus package designed to galvanise spending in the outdoors equipment sector. The closures will affect all 950+ huts operated by the Department of Conservation and will run from June 1 until August 31. 

DOC’s ‘Winter Wild’ campaign aims to encourage trampers to spend up big on tents and wet weather gear at outdoor stores. To offset the loss of hut fees from the closures, DOC will impose temporary car parking fees – $15 per car per night – at all road-ends and will redeploy hut wardens to enforce compliance. 

A DOC spokesperson said the initiative is part of a broader coronavirus recovery stimulus package. “We’re expecting to see a jump in tent purchases as trampers embrace the opportunity to sleep outside during winter in our amazing mountains.” 

It is expected that a small increase in emergency callouts to the mountains may occur during this period and DOC urges anyone in a life-threatening situation to be patient. 

Huts will be locked during the three-month campaign, but long-drops will remain open for emergency accommodation. 

Traffic light system to operate on busy tracks

A traffic light system is going to be introduced on New Zealand’s busiest tracks in an effort to ease congestion during high use periods, especially on the Great Walks. It is planned to install traffic lights at various points along the tracks in the hope that it will ensure parties are spaced out and walkers will have a better experience. A proposal to create ‘overtaking lanes’ on certain sections is currently being examined by a parliamentary select committee. 

Protest enters third day

Protesters at Kaitoke Regional Park are entering their third day, as police weigh up whether to forcibly remove them from the camping grounds near the Tararua Ranges. It is not clear at this stage what the protesters’ aims are or what point they are hoping to make.  Witnesses say several ‘Make the Tararuas Great Again’ hats were spotted among the crowd, and that many people appeared to be baking potatoes in tin foil jackets. One protester told a reporter that the constant clag that hung over the Tararua Ranges was no accident. 

“This low-lying cloud is clearly government chemtrails. No mountain range in the world could possibly be covered in cloud as much as the Tararuas are. It just doesn’t add up.”

Another protester claimed that Te Araroa Trail was part of a government ploy. “They’re trying to tire us out by making us walk the length of New Zealand for no reason. They don’t want us to have the energy to expose what’s really going on.”

When asked what was really going on, the protester replied, “Oh you know, the usual – they are building a bush lab and using ancient moa DNA to create a biological bird weapon capable of wiping out 90 per cent of humanity so that it’s easier to get a hut booking on the Milford Track during school holidays. Do your research.”

Man gets wet

A man swam in a New Zealand river yesterday. He told onlookers it was very cold, and would not recommend it to anyone. 

First-time tramper goes it alone

A first-time tramper has successfully completed an overnight tramp without seeking advice from a Facebook group, in what’s believed to be a New Zealand first. Auckland-based newbie tramper Alex Green told Wilderness he knew he was taking a risk by not first asking for tips from the popular Facebook group Tramping in New Zealand, but said he has always enjoyed living life on the edge. 

“I somehow figured it out myself,” said Mr Green. “Maybe I just got lucky?”

Experts strongly advise anyone thinking of starting out to first put up a post on the page saying, “Hi guys, I’d like to do my first overnight tramp, where should I go and what gear do I need?” 

A spokesperson for the Mountain Safety Council said although no harm came to Green, new trampers should always consult Facebook before setting out into the bush. “We’re glad he’s okay, but we do remind everyone that you should always seek answers and reassurance from strangers online prior to commencing your tramp. Remember, no question is too stupid or too vague.” 

Tramp for the Dole scheme proposed

The National Party will introduce a ‘Tramp for the Dole’ scheme if elected to government at the next election. The scheme will target young people who need motivation and will aim to show them what real drudgery feels like, in preparation for a lifetime in the workforce. 

A spokesperson said, “Young people need to understand you can’t just sit around all day, sometimes you need to walk around all day. This course will teach jobseekers the value of exerting yourself for no good reason, the value of going somewhere and ending up back where you started, and the value of pointless toil. 

“We hope that any young person who survives the course will be well equipped for the workforce.”

Best outdoor books of the year nominees announced

While April might be considered a bit early to be announcing best-of-the-year nominations, judges in the New Zealand Outdoor Book Awards have brought forward the cut-off date to ensure they can have a longer holiday in December. 

I’m not climbing that thing! – Why do mountains have to be so tall? is nominated in the science-writing category, alongside Because of its colour – How greenstone got its name.

The very hungry bedbug is a hot favourite to take out the children’s book category, while The West Coast’s week of no rain is highly regarded in the fiction category.

Just add water (and tears) – How meals in a packet destroyed my love of both tramping and eating is considered the favourite in the self-help category. 

While you’re here, why not join New Zealand’s biggest walking challenge: Walk1200km!