In the “Stewart Island/Rakiura Conservation Management Strategy and Rakiura National Park Management Plan 2011-2021

Recreational opportunity settings






1. General description

i) Where the majority of visitation occurs. Typically small areas, scattered within or on the periphery of large relatively natural areas.

ii) Often focused on a particular attraction.

i) Natural settings generally accessed first through frontcountry.

ii) Includes popular walks and tramps set within the body of a large-scale natural setting, and/or that accesses other settings.

i) Large-scale natural settings that are generally well beyond the front- country zones and relatively inaccessible with basic low-use tracks, marked routes and huts.

i) Gazetted wilderness; or

ii) Large natural areas with no facilities; and

iii) Generally surrounded by remote zones but can be coastal.

2. Accessibility

i) Readily accessible areas, usually via roads and/or accessible by water taxis.

ii) Tour buses and guided parties.

iii) Enabled for people of most ages and abilities.

i) People will have travelled some distance to reach these settings.

i) Typically four or more hours of travel over land from the front- country.

ii) Access supported by aircraft and water craft to some areas.

i) Generally requires passing through backcountry and/or remote to reach boundary, however some areas are accessible by the coast.

3. Facility setting

i) Good quality facilities and services with easy access.

ii) Sometimes the origin for tramping tracks and routes, with signs and information to make this transition clear.

iii) High degree of control via information and direction signs, and barriers.

i) A range of facility standards, including popular walks and tramping tracks.

ii) Evidence of control limited to essential directional signs and barriers on Great Walks and where there are significant hazards.

i) Basic huts, bridges, low-use tracks and marked routes.

ii) Evidence of control limited to essential direction signs.

i) No facilities.

4. Desired visitor experience and interactions

i) Varying, from activities with large groups, some time with small groups/family, some time away from other groups, and solitude in some cases.

ii) Expectation of few to many others depending on location/popularity.

iii) Small groups typical and larger groups at popular tourist destinations.

iv) Day and overnight visitors.

i) Generally time away from other groups and, in some cases, solitude.

ii) Occasional encounters with organised groups.

iii) Generally accepting of occasional intrusion of noise.

iv) Back- country seekers.

i) Reasonable expectation of isolation from sights, sounds and activities of other people.

ii) Interaction with few other groups.

iii) Considerable self-reliance on backcountry skills.

iv) Backcountry and remoteness seekers.

i) Complete isolation from sights, sounds and activities of other people.

ii) Maximum interaction with only one other group is generally acceptable.

iii) Remoteness seekers.

5. Preferred maximum party size

i) 15 (including guides) generally and for guided parties; 30 for periodic tour parties1

i) 15 (including guides)

i) 9 (including guides)

i) 6 (including guides)

6. Typical visitor interaction levels

i) Fewer than 30 or less people seen per visit duration.

i) 15 or less people seen per day for BCA tracks.

ii) 40 or less people seen per day for BCC tracks.

i) 10 or less people seen per day.

i) 6 or less people seen per visit duration.

7. Concessions operations

i) Concessionaire activity may be permitted in frontcountry, backcountry, and remote settings, subject to conditions to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects including compliance with criteria within this table and the outcomes, objectives and policies for places within the Stewart Island/Rakiura CMS area. Concessions should not be granted for a gazetted wilderness area unless the activity is necessary or desirable for the preservation of the area’s indigenous resources and is in conformity with this strategy and (where applicable) the Rakiura National Park Management Plan.

ii) Concessionaire client activities should be managed in a similar manner, unless there is a specified reason for different management. The outcomes, objectives, and policies for places within the Stewart Island/Rakiura CMS area apply.

8. Concessions effects management

i) Avoid, remedy, or mitigate effects by setting conditions.

i) Avoid and mitigate effects as far as possible.

ii) Apply hut occupancy criteria.

i) Concessions activity to be indistinguishable from other approved activities.

i) Concessions activity to be indistinguishable from other recreational activities.

ii) Avoid adverse effects.

9. Aircraft management

i) Aircraft access should not be approved other than in accordance with section 1.5.2 Vehicles (including aircraft).


Frontcountry refers to places that are accessible by vehicles or within easy reach of such access. In the case of Rakiura National Park the vehicle access also refers to boat access to the parts of the Park readily accessible by water. Front country places have a substantial infrastructure and may include the following facilities: car parks, picnic and camping areas, toilets, water supplies, signs, interpretation panels, viewpoints, shelters, bridges and walking tracks. This is where the majority of the visitors to Rakiura National Park are found and this is reflected in the well-developed facilities.

The provision of facilities in the frontcountry encourages use by all and allows an instant immersion-in-nature experience. Facilities are also used to protect the natural values from the impact of large numbers of people. While most visitors to these areas expect large numbers of people, they may be sensitive to overcrowding. In some situations it may still be necessary for management to control visitor numbers or patterns of use, but the frontcountry zones within Rakiura National Park should be expected to absorb the bulk of the visitor load. As such, party sizes can be large and visitors should expect numerous interactions with other groups during their visit.


Backcountry opportunities are in large-scale natural settings, generally accessed first through frontcountry settings. People will usually have travelled some distance to reach the backcountry setting, and will tend to be expecting time away from other groups, and in some cases, solitude. Group sizes tend to range from 2 – 5 people, although larger groups do occur. A range of facilities standards are available and are used by different types of visitors, such as individuals, schools, clubs, and commercial groups. The periodic intrusion of some unnatural noise in these areas is to be expected. Trip duration can range from a day to several days using huts or camping sites.

The backcountry category is divided into backcountry-accessible and backcountry-walk-in. Backcountry-accessible sites have motorised access. In the case of Rakiura National Park, the motorised access mostly refers to boats. The walk-in category begins beyond the immediate influence of motorised access.

For planning simplicity in Rakiura National Park the overall category of backcountry is used, with the recognition that backcountry areas adjacent to accessible and sheltered bodies of water are essentially backcountry-accessible areas.


Remote settings are composed of the untracked catchments beyond the backcountry zone and the wild lands associated with less accessible low-use tracks in the interior of large protected areas. It is typical to have travelled up to five hours to reach this zone from the frontcountry. Typical users travel in groups of 2-5 people, are self-reliant, and have good backcountry skills and enjoy a closeness to nature. Five or less encounters with other groups during a trip are generally considered to be acceptable.

People appreciate that they will visit or use few, if any, facilities in these remote settings and have a reasonable expectation of experiencing isolation from the sights, sounds and activities of humans. They may interact with few other groups. Many of these people appreciate the basic huts and marked routes where these are provided, and others may use but not rely on these facilities. Solitude and natural quiet are easily found.

ROS (Recreational Oppurtunity Spectrum) wilderness

These are large natural areas with no facilities. They are composed within and surrounded by remote zones, typically requiring two days foot travel to traverse (over 2000 hectares in size). ROS wilderness areas are not legally protected as gazetted wilderness under section 14 of the National Parks Act 1980, but they are managed for their wilderness characteristics under the recreational opportunity spectrum. People using these areas require strong backcountry skills and fitness and will realise their expectations of complete isolation from the sights, sounds and activities of humans. Interaction with only one other group during a trip is generally acceptable.

1Periodic tour parties are granted at the discretion of the area manager for concessionaires who are undertaking a visit of a one-off or very limited nature and seeking to bring more than 100 clients through the Stewart Island/Rakiura CMS area in a single day. A party size of 30 is considered appropriate because of the limited nature of the visits. The adverse effects of the visit are going to be limited due to the infrequent nature of the trips in comparison with the constant nature of a party of, for example, 15.

back to top

Back to top