DOC rangers secure Howden Hut

Image: DOC | DOC

Introduction

The extreme weather warning for the South Island has been lifted and no further damage has been reported. Staff are working hard to get tracks open.

Date:  17 February 2020

Emergency Management Southland is coordinating the response, see Emergency Management Southland website for updates.

Update Monday 17 February 3 pm

The extreme weather warning for Fiordland, Otago and Southland over the weekend has now been lifted. No further damage to tracks in these areas has been reported.

The area remains in a State of Emergency and our key priority is safety. If you're planning a hike in the region in the next week, check this website for track closures and updates before embarking.

We are working hard to partially re-open the Milford Track for independent walkers once it's fully assessed. A public announcement will go out when the decision is made – keep checking this website for updates.

The Routeburn Track remains closed for the foreseeable future, given the significant damage incurred.

Staff are working really hard to get tracks open. 

Fiordland’s open for business – there’s still heaps of beautiful places to enjoy that are open in Fiordland National Park

Update Friday 14 February 3 pm

MetService New Zealand has issued a severe weather warning. Former Tropical Cyclone Uesi is forecast to approach the South Island from late Saturday onwards, bringing heavy rain and strong gale force winds to many areas on Sunday and Monday. 

This could trigger further damage to land or trees that are unstable from last week’s flooding event.

Our key priority is safety. If you have planned a hike in the region early next week, check this website for track closures and updates before embarking.

We intend to partially re-open the Milford Track once the ex-tropical cyclone has passed and the track has been assessed as safe. A public announcement will go out when the decision is made, so keep checking this website.

Update Thursday 13 February 3 pm

Another severe weather system – ex-Tropical Cyclone Uesi - is forecast to hit parts of the South Island this weekend, including Fiordland, Otago and Southland which are still recovering from last week’s storm.

Tracks may be affected by the storm and further rockfalls and slips may occur.

If the forecast does not improve, our advice is to avoid hiking in the areas the weather is expected to hit. Check Metservice for latest details.

Several tracks in northern Fiordland and parts of Otago remain closed from last week’s storm damage and we ask people to respect these closures. Check safety alerts for Fiordland and Otago.

We’ve made good progress in assessing tracks for damage from last week, and many are starting to reopen however the New Zealand outdoors is a dynamic environment and there is always a level of risk that tracks and structures could be impacted by storm damage.

Always check the weather forecast before heading out and regardless of the forecast, ensure you have the right equipment in case you do get caught in a storm,.

We’re looking at options to reopen part of the Milford Track once the Southland Civil Defence State of Emergency is lifted and hope to make a decision early next week. The Milford Track is looking pretty good from Glade Wharf up to just past Mintaro Hut – however, the last seven kilometres of the track has a lot of damage and that will take quite some time to fix.

The key priority is safety. We understand people are really keen to get back out there but we need to make sure our tracks and structures are safe for visitors and businesses operating on them.

Update Wednesday 12 February 3 pm

We’re continuing to make good progress assessing tracks and structures in Fiordland, Otago and Southland which were impacted by last week’s extreme weather event.

While some of our popular tracks are closed, there are still plenty of options for walkers in the Fiordland and Otago regions.

Aspiring Road, near Wanaka, has reopened giving walkers access back into the Mt Aspiring National Park tracks from the Matukituki valley.

The Kepler track and Rakiura track are open – check our website to book.

In Southland, access to popular sites such as Mavora Lakes have also reopened.

Lake Gunn Nature Walk off the Milford road has also reopened.

Check our website for the latest alerts on individual tracks and always check the weather forecast before heading into the outdoors.

Staff are working really hard to get tracks open.

We’re hoping to make a decision in the next couple of days on a partial reopening of Milford Track. It is looking pretty good from Glade Wharf up to just past Mintaro Hut – however, the last seven kilometres of the track has a lot of damage and that will take quite some time to fix.

Ground inspections are still required on many tracks and we ask that people respect the closures at this time.

The key priority is safety. More rain is expected in the coming week so this may impact on timeframes.

Fiordland’s open for business – there’s still heaps of beautiful places to enjoy that are open in Fiordland National Park

Update Tuesday 11 February 4 pm

This week DOC has moved into full recovery mode. Staff are out assessing tracks and structures, planning repairs and supporting the tourism industry.

The Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and DOC staff visited Fiordland at the weekend to survey some of impacted the region and held meetings with concessionaires.

The north end of Fiordland National Park and the south end of Mt Aspiring National Park was the most affected. At this stage we know the Routeburn Track will not fully open until next season. The Milford Track has some damage to the track. We are prioritising repairs and access to Milford Track and some of the short/day walks along the Milford Road corridor. The Kepler Track remains fully open and operational.

Ground inspection is needed on all closed tracks. Aerial survey is not sufficient as damage may not be immediately obvious. Ground teams are working as quickly as they can to assess tracks and structures – our key priority is safety. More rain is expected in the coming week so this may impact on timeframes.

Update Monday 10 February 2 pm

The situation in Southland is slowly becoming more clear.

Fiordland remains under a Civil Defence state of emergency declaration, however parts of Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Park are still open. Check the relevant web pages for details.

We currently have a number of staff in the field across the region making on-the-ground assessments. We do not expect to get detailed information from them until they return to office late Monday or Tuesday.

At this stage it is vital to acquire good information so we can safely reinstate or open tracks and facilities.

Public safety cannot be assured on closed tracks and we urge people not to use them while they remain closed.

While subject to change, our priority is to:

  1. Undertake inspections and assessments of damage on the Milford Track, then undertake tasked remedial work to get at least part of the track operational again.
  2. Undertake inspections and assessments of damage to Milford Road side tracks: short walks, etc; then to undertake tasked remedial work to get the track or part of it operational again. Whenever possible we will work at the same pace as Milford Road Alliance so that road and tracks open at the same time, however it is highly likely some tracks will remain closed even after the road access has been reinstated.
  3. Assess condition of tracks elsewhere in the region where those tracks could provide alternative experiences for visitors who are unable to use the closed walks.
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Update Thursday 6 February 4 pm

This is an important update for people booked on Great Walks in Northern Fiordland following the significant weather event on 3 February. Our priority in making these decisions is for the safety of our staff and visitors.

Due the damage caused by the weather event, the Milford Track will be closed to the public for at least three weeks while DOC understands and seeks to undertake the critical repair work. We are aware of significant damage to the Milford end of the track with some of our early assessments.

The Routeburn Track sustained significant damage and will not reopen this season and will remain closed for the foreseeable future. The track will require considerable repair work to be operational.

The Kepler Great Walk remains open and operational.

People who have booked the Milford for the period up to 29 February will be given a full refund for bookings made through the Great Walks system.

People who have booked the Routeburn Track for the remainder of the summer season will be given a full refund.

These refunds will be processed as soon as possible.

We understand that this is disappointing for people who have been booked to walk at this time. Unfortunately, assessments to both the Milford and Routeburn tracks have shown extensive damage that will take time to repair. Our priority is ensuring people’s safety. No access to either track will be possible while we undertake this repair work.

Check this website for updates on other tracks in the area. Southland remains in a state of emergency due to flooding and damage across the region. Check the weather forecast and take extreme care on any tracks in the area and abide by closures.

Update Wednesday 5 February 6 pm

Media queries about the extreme weather and evacuations should go to Emergency Management Southland. DOC continues to support Civil Defence responding to this emergency.

The extreme weather is expected to have caused significant damage to tracks across Fiordland, Southland and Otago.

Areas of Southland have been severely affected by flooding. We have not been able to complete assessments due to the weather. Many places require initial damage assessment and extreme care is advised.

The following Great Walks are closed until further notice due to known infrastructure damage:

  • Milford Track
  • Routeburn Track

There is no public access to these tracks, huts or campgrounds at this time.

The Hollyford, Rees-Dart Track, and Greenstone Caples are also closed.

Kepler Track is open.

The following tracks are inaccessible due to road closures. See NZ Transport Agency website for full details:

  • Greenstone and Caples Tracks
  • Routeburn Track
  • Rees-Dart Track
  • West and East Matukituki tracks (Mt Aspiring National Park)
  • All tracks accessed north of Knobs Flat on the Milford road

Aerial geotechnical and engineering assessments will begin from today for key track infrastructure.

Great Walk bookings

People who have booked the Milford and Routeburn tracks for the period up to Friday 7 February will be given a full refund for bookings made through the Great Walks system. This will be processed early next week.

We need to wait for the flooding to subside before we can assess the damage and then update those booked after the 7 February.

We understand that this is disappointing for people who have been booked to walk at this time. Unfortunately, an extreme weather event has caused significant damage to tracks and our priority is ensuring people’s safety.

Bookings for dates outside the initial closure period are not currently impacted. However, it is possible that damage to the tracks and roads will mean the tracks are closed for longer.

We will know more once the initial assessment is done and will keep you updated.

Update Tuesday 4 February 2 pm

DOC is supporting Civil Defence who are leading this operation. Media queries about the extreme weather event should go to Emergency Management Southland.

Most of the huts have now been cleared including Island Lake Hut, Hidden Falls Hut, Gunns Camp, Big Bay Pike Hut and Pike Lodge.  

DOC’s priority is to deal with the emergency response and support Civil Defence to ensure people are safe.

We have rangers and staff out on the tracks who are checking on trampers and visitors, making sure they are comfortable and follow emergency procedures.

Anyone who has been caught out in the storm should seek shelter and wait until the bad weather passes. Visitors are reminded to respect track closures for their own safety.

We know there is damage to huts and tracks because of flooding and slips, but it’s too early to determine the extent of the damage. We need to wait for the weather to settle before we can assess any damage and inspect the tracks.

Update Tuesday 4 February 10.30 am

A welfare centre, supported by DOC staff, has been set up in Te Anau to assist people who have been impacted by the storm and don’t have accommodation.

  • Milford Track is closed.
  • Routeburn Track is closed.
  • Milford Road is closed and all tracks, huts and campsites accessed from it are closed.
  • Hollyford Track is closed. 
  • Mararoa River has flooded - road closures likely in Mavora Lakes Conservation Park. 
  • Kepler Track is open. 

See all our safety alerts for the Fiordland region

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