Swingbridge on the Hooker Valley Track
Image: Andrea Schaffer | Creative Commons

Introduction

See answers to frequently asked questions about the two new track networks Tourism Minister Paula Bennett and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry recently announced.

What was the selection criteria?

We followed a robust selection criteria, which included input from researching nearly 6,000 people interested in walking – both potential international visitors and New Zealanders. Overview of walking experiences research (PDF, 496K)

Consumer research indicated that there are seven key factors people consider when deciding on the suitability of a walk: catering to different levels of fitness, the landscapes and scenery, time to complete the walk, time available on the day, the terrain of the walk, unique experiences to see and do; as well as the facilities that are available.

Short walks (30 minutes to 3 hours) appeal to those with compact itineraries and allow people to sample tasters of our natural heritage. Day walks (3 to 7 hours) encourage visitors to stay longer in a region while not having to commit to the full overnight back country experience.

The walks were also assessed by local DOC staff as being able to accommodate increased visitors. They also looked at potential biodiversity, biosecurity and cultural impacts from increased numbers. The walks also needed to be ready to launch in October.

Who did you consult with?

Through the research, Tourism New Zealand surveyed more than 2,250 New Zealanders and over 3,500 Australians, Americans, Germans and Chinese potential visitors. DOC staff consulted with iwi/hapu and local stakeholders about potential impacts of promoting the areas, as well as national groups like FMC and Walking Access Commission New Zealand.

This research provided a clear understanding of what visitors are wanting. We've identified these locations as offering what people are after and consulted with those communities on whether they support more visitors to these destinations.

Why does the list include already popular walks such as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and can these cope with more visitors?

This project is about showcasing a selection of the country's best short and day walks.

We could not leave Tongariro out of that group. It also lets people know that the other 18 walks in these networks are equally worthwhile doing and the experience is comparable to Tongariro. DOC has worked worked with Ngāti Hikairo and local business operators to identify solutions to ensure that the Tongariro Alpine Crossing remains a world class experience in 20+ years.

Recommendations look to the long term as well as the short term and could include the likes of managing traffic differently and spreading visitation throughout the day. Detailed planning will happen before summer 2017.

Surveys currently indicate that the number of people undertaking the walk is not detracting from people's enjoyment. Many visitors to this site also find comfort in having other people nearby given that it can be a challenging environment.

We will be actively promoting the lesser known walks. The intention is to encourage people to visit other regions that they might not have considered that also have stunning scenery. We have worked with iwi and stakeholders and our teams on the ground to ensure these sites are able to accommodate any increases; and that people are aware of times when they are fewer people around.

What will you do to support necessary infrastructure in places you are going to promote?

Many of these walks have had infrastructure investment in the past 10 years. This now puts those places in a good position to cater for the changing tourism context and the increasing numbers of both kiwi and internationals wanting to visit our most specular outdoor places.

DOC has invested more than $21.8M in maintaining and upgrading the tracks that have been selected. It will invest a further $2.36M over the next two years to ensure they are kept to standard.

Roys Peak has an expanded carpark and toilet going in before the October launch. This work had been planned for separate to the project and shows how DOC is consistently reviewing the level of infrastructure at all sites around the country and ensuring that the infrastructure is fit for purpose.

Cathedral Cove embodies what coastal New Zealand is. $2.1M has been spent in the last 10 years to meet visitor demand by upgrading the track surface and amenities, and a further $400K will be allocated over the next two years to keep this easily access location track and amenities to standard.

The Department has invested over $4M in the last 10 years in the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and will shortly invest a further $1M in track, amenity, and road upgrades to better manage future demands.

What will you do to ensure the environment and wildlife are protected with more visitors to an area?

DOC has good systems in place to design and manage visitor facilities in our great outdoors while protecting and promoting natural values.

In determining the list of sites for the short and day walks campaign, biodiversity and biosecurity impacts were considered to ensure the area could cope with increased visitors. It is important to note that these sites already exist, we plan to tell a deeper conservation story through the material created around these sites. DOC rangers monitor the walk to ensure the tracks and surrounds are well maintained and protected.

What about the places that missed out – will there be more walks developed/promoted in future?

DOC is looking to develop 20 short walks and 10 day walks overall. Some sites require additional upgrades to be equal in quality to the walks being promoted in this campaign. These include: Hokitika Gorge, Tane Mahuta and Pouakai Crossing that may be added after iwi consultation and upgrade of the tracks. DOC will continue to promote other tracks on its website and to work with others, including Regional Tourism Organisations to promote the best of a region.

What kind of increase regarding visitor numbers using the walks do you expect?

Based on our experiences with Great Walks, it could be anywhere between 5%, to 35%. We would anticipate a growth trend at each site to be slightly above the current tourism growth being experienced.

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