Date: 31 March 2020
DOC's priority is to support New Zealand in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives.
New Zealanders are being told to stay home to break the chain of community transmission of this deadly virus. DOC is playing its part. That means our facilities and offices are closed, and tracks and national parks are out of bounds unless they are right by your home.
DOC facilities are closed
DOC has closed all huts and campsites, and asks no one uses these until further notice.
DOC accommodation should not be used for self-isolation.
For everyone’s safety, at Alert Level 4 people are strongly advised not to head into the backcountry or remote areas, nor should they undertake outdoor activities (such as adventure sports or hunting) that would expose them to higher levels of risk.
This is because hut wardens will not be in place, communications may be limited, and we do not want to place unnecessary strain on health services.
New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) is asking people to stick to simple outdoor exercise and avoid areas where they could get lost or require search and rescue. NZSAR want to ensure that emergency services are available to help those in the greatest need
Visitor centres can still be contacted
Visitor centres are closed. However our staff are available to help with visitor queries and bookings, and can be contacted by phone and email.
Hunters and fishers should stay at home
All hunters should stay at home while New Zealand is at COVID-19 Alert Level 4. The Game Animal Council, NZ Deerstalkers Association and Mountain Safety Council also say hunters should not to head into the hills or backcountry for hunting. Hunting will expose them and others to higher levels of risk and put pressure on the emergency services if they have to respond.
For everyone's safety, at Alert Level 4, DOC is informing people not to head into the backcountry or remote areas, or undertake other outdoor activities (such as adventure sports, tramping or hunting).
Fish & Game New Zealand are supporting the Government’s directive that no one goes fishing or hunting during Alert Level 4.
Coastguard New Zealand is also asking people not to go out on the water during the lockdown period to avoid putting themselves or Coastguard volunteers in harm’s way.
To reduce the risk of people further spreading COVID-19, no hunting permits are being issued until further notice.
Hunting blocks assigned to hunters as part of the 2020 deer roar ballots are cancelled until further notice.
Campsites and campervans
People seeking assistance with finding temporary accommodation for self-isolation should call the Temporary Accommodation Service on 0508 754 163.
Commercial campgrounds are essential services and permitted and encouraged to stay open during Alert Level 4. However, shared facilities must not be used and owners may wish to close these off where possible.
Self-contained vehicles can be used as accommodation by people that are self-isolating. Self-contained vehicles have a toilet, water and waste facilities and will display a sticker confirming they meet the Self-Containment Standard NZS 5465:2001.
Those using self-contained vehicles to self-isolate are strongly encouraged to stay at commercial camping sites, if available. They must remain at the same site for four weeks or until the Alert Level is reduced. Note that during Alert Level 4, DOC campsites will be closed, along with many local council-owned freedom camping spots.
Vehicles that are not self-contained must not be used for self-isolation. Those currently living in vehicles that are not self-contained must find alternative accommodation while New Zealand is at Alert Level 4.
Self-isolating in boats
People should follow Government public health advice and guidelines for physical distancing and should stay close to home. The Coastguard has also urged people to stay off the water during the lockdown for their own safety.
- All DOC island amenities are closed, including campsites, accommodation and toilets.
- Islands should not be landed on until further notice.
- Extinctions can be caused by stowaway mice, rats, invasive ants and other pests coming ashore. Anyone landing their boat on an island, or anchoring/mooring close to an island, is putting some of New Zealand's most threatened species at risk.
- Anyone seeing others engaging in inappropriate behaviour around our islands is encouraged to report their observation to the DOC hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).
Don't check traplines
DOC is advising people not to check traplines on public conservation land or other public land.
Checking traplines carries a risk of injury, particularly in remote areas, which puts pressure on already over stretched emergency services. Handling shared equipment such as traps, traps boxes, radios, PLBs, and first aid kits increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Even if your trapline is close to home, do not go and check it.
We appreciate your energy and enthusiasm for working towards a predator free New Zealand, but right now our main priority is to flatten the curve of COVID-19.
If you have a trap at home, we do encourage you to keep this baited and set. It will be making a real difference to keeping predator numbers down in your immediate area, and ensuring native birds and lizards are safe when they visit your home. If you don’t have a trap, talk to your local predator free group about getting one once it is safe to do so.
Cancellation policy for COVID-19
To support attempts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are offering refunds to our huts, campsites. lodges and Great Walks for reasons relating to COVID-19. These include:
- 100% refund where the cancellation is 7 days or more from the date of arrival
- 100% refund where the cancellation is less than 7 days from the date of arrival either on receipt of a medical certificate, evidence of a cancelled tour or flights or at the discretion of the staff receiving the request.
Reasons relating to COVID-19 may include (but are not limited to):
- flights or tours that have been cancelled
- the person or people with a booking becoming ill
- the 14-day self-isolation requirement for all incoming travellers
- the person or people with a booking being exposed to COVID-19 and not wanting to expose others
- the person or people with a booking not wanting to share a facility because they fear they may contract the virus.
How to cancel your Great Walk booking and get a full refund
Visit Great Walks bookings and follow these steps:
- Log into your profile and select your account
- Select Purchases then All Bookings
- Select Cancel - a warning will come up stating fees may apply, however these have been waived
- Save and continue – this will take you to the shopping cart
- Confirm purchase and your full refund will be processed to the credit card used to pay for the booking.
Allow several business days for the refund to appear in your account, this is due to bank processing times.
If your cancellation can not be processed for any reason contact firstname.lastname@example.org and provide your name, email address and booking confirmation number.
How to cancel your hut, lodge or campground booking and get a full refund
Contact the DOC office that is listed on your confirmation email to request your refund. Provide your name, email address and booking confirmation number.
Due to the unprecedented volume of cancellations allow up to three weeks for DOC to process your request. We will be processing cancellations in chronological order.
All DOC staff who are not involved in emergency management teams are working from home. This includes rangers and other field staff.
We have arrangements in place for essential care services for threatened native species held in captivity. DOC will be monitoring the situation and may respond in specific situations, should safety issues arise in conservation areas.
DOC will be monitoring the situation over the coming days and weeks and may respond in specific situations, should safety issues arise in conservation areas.
Work with wildlife
Most of DOC’s work with wildlife will be on hold under Llert level 4 unless it’s essential for animal welfare or to deal with a significant hazard to public health and safety.
On hold work includes non-essential work (in the context of the COVID-19 response) with wildlife such as monitoring species in the field, monitoring pests, deploying technology like cameras, weed control, checking traps and undertaking predator control operations.
Our priority is the health and safety of our staff and wider communities and complying with the government’s directive to remain at home and so there is a high threshold to meet before we will deploy staff outdoors to respond to wildlife emergencies and issues.
Responses will be limited to meeting significant animal welfare needs and incidents where there is a significant hazard to public health or safety, and only where staff can do so safely and in a way that meets the requirements to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
DOC will continue essential care for animals such as kaki/black stilt, takahe and other species held in captive facilities provided this can be done in a way that is safe for staff and meets requirements for minimal contact under alert level 4.
Conservation institutes and facilities looking after native species on behalf of DOC can also continue essential care of wildlife provided they meet the government’s COVID-19 directives.
DOC’s emergency hotline is still operating as an essential service. Responses to incidents of injured wildlife and marine mammals, including whale and dolphin stranding, will be assessed on a case by case basis In most cases our ability to respond in the usual manner will be constrained during this time and our advice will be to let nature take its course.
Tiakina Ngā Manu predator control
DOC is pausing its Tiakina Ngā Manu aerial 1080 predator control operations as non-essential work is halted under COVID-19 alert level 4, and staff and contractors self-isolate at home.
Several aerial 1080 predator control operations planned to take place in Fiordland and on the West Coast over the coming months will be postponed.
Scheduled trap checks for trapping programmes in conservation areas will also be delayed while staff and contractors self-isolate at home.
DOC is reviewing its predator control programme for 2020/2021 in light of COVID-19 with some predator control operations for 2020 likely to be delayed until 2021.
Planning will continue for the 2020/2021 predator programme, including consultation with iwi Treaty partners, stakeholders and local communities about proposed operations by phone and video call while we are under lockdown.
DOC's priority is to support New Zealand's COVID-19 response and ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of DOC staff and contractors.
Delaying predator control operations at some sites will increase the risk of predation on native species, particularly stoat predation of kiwi chicks, but is not expected to have a critical impact on species’ populations.
It’s fortunate we have nearly completed our largest-ever predator control programme in response to the 2019 forest mega mast, protecting our most at-risk populations of threatened species such as orange-fronted kākāriki, kiwi, kākā, whio and bats.
DOC is close to completing its planned 900,000 ha predator control programme in response to the 2019 mega mast. We have undertaken predator control over nearly 850,000 ha of priority conservation areas, comprising aerial 1080 operations over about 780,000 ha and trapping and other ground control over about 66,000 ha.
Ministry of Health phone number for health advice and information: 0800 358 5453