DOC worker assessing bridge in Fiordland

Image: Luke Bovill | ©

Introduction

DOC crews have been working hard on repairing tracks. So far we have reopened 51 of the 78 tracks that were damaged or inaccessible because of the 3 February storm.

Date:  04 March 2020

Update 4 March 1 pm

The Routeburn Track partially reopens from 12 March 2020 as a new walking experience, named Routeburn Return. It's a 4-day, 3-night hike beginning and ending at the Routeburn Shelter. This return journey starts and finishes near Glenorchy.

Media release about Routeburn Return

Update 3 March 11 am

Routeburn area

We’ve begun welcoming concessionaires who take guided walks and provide support services back onto part of the Routeburn Track.

There is now access for day walkers from the Routeburn Shelter car park at the Glenorchy end of the track through to Lake Mackenzie. 

The damage from major slips between Lake Mackenzie Hut and the Divide Shelter means the Routeburn Great Walk will not fully reopen this season.

Huts along the track are unavailable. We’ll let you know shortly when they can be rebooked.

Milford area

Independent walkers are back on the Milford Track - we have reopened part of the track as a three-day return journey now called the Southern Milford-Mackinnon Experience.

The Milford Great Walk will not reopen this season because the final 7 km are badly damaged by slips and the track is impassable at the northern end.

Hollyford area

We are still assessing the Hollyford Track which remains closed. Further assessments show the intensity of landslips and damage to the tracks is more significant than first thought. We are awaiting more technical reports before planning next steps.

Update 28 February 2020 4 pm

We're continuing to assess reopening part of the Routeburn Track and hope to make decisions next week on walk options for independent trampers. We've engaged with concessionaires today about plans for next week.

The Routeburn Great Walk will not fully reopen this season, due to damage from major slips between Mackenzie Hut and the Divide Shelter.

Independent walkers are on the reopened part of the Milford Track as a three-day return journey called the Southern Milford-Mackinnon Experience.

Two sidetracks at the Glenorchy end of the Routeburn reopened yesterday, which include the Sugarloaf Track and the Rockburn Track. 

This gives access to the mid/upper Rockburn Track and the Sugarloaf further north, which will be great news for hunters wanting to access the Sugarloaf hunting block.

However, the Rockburn Sylvan Track (the lower section back through to Sylvan) remains closed.

The Milford Track is still impassable at the northern end, and the final 7 kilometres of the track will not reopen this season.

Keep an eye on the NZTA website for details of the Milford Road.

A word about toilets – make use of facilities where they are available. As more people get back out on the tracks, there may be more pressure on facilities.

  • The Divide car park is currently unavailable due to visitor safety concerns. This means the toilets at the Divide are also unavailable.
  • The last toilet available along the Milford Road is at Knobs Flat. Due to increased traffic, there may be a longer than usual wait.
  • Businesses operating on this route should factor in extra time for toilet stops and wait times to make their scheduled convoy time.

Update 27 February 2020 4 pm

Following inspections, we have now reopened two side tracks at the Glenorchy end of the Routeburn. This includes the Sugarloaf Track and the Rockburn Track.

This now means there is access to the mid/upper Rockburn Track and the Sugarloaf further north, which will be great news for hunters wanting to access the Sugarloaf hunting block.

However, the Rockburn Sylvan Track (the lower section back through to Sylvan) remains closed.

Keep an eye on the NZTA website for details of the Milford Road.

Independent walkers are back on the Milford Track, which has partially reopened as a three-day return journey now called the Southern Milford-Mackinnon Experience.

The Milford Track is still impassable at the northern end, and the final 7 kilometres of the track will not reopen this season.

A word about toilets – make use of facilities where they are available.  As more people get back out on the tracks, there may be more pressure on facilities.

  • The Divide carpark is currently unavailable due to visitor safety concerns. This means the toilets at the Divide are also unavailable.
  • The last toilet available along the Milford Road is at Knobs Flat. Due to increased traffic, there may be a longer than usual wait.
  • Businesses operating on this route should factor in extra time for toilet stops and wait times to make their scheduled convoy time.

We are getting closer to announcing a decision about whether we can reopen part of the Routeburn Track this season. The damage from major slips between Mackenzie Hut and the Divide Shelter means the track will not fully reopen this season, but we're looking at options for independent walkers in areas where we have completed repairs.

Update 26 February 2020 4 pm

We're pleased to welcome independent walkers back on the Milford Track today, which has partially reopened as a three-day return journey now called the Southern Milford-Mackinnon Experience.

This new experience sees walkers depart from Glade Wharf at Lake Te Anau to Mackinnon Pass for a three-day, two-night hike in Fiordland National Park.

The Milford Track is still impassable at the northern end, and the final 7 kilometres of the track will not reopen this season.

Walkers who were booked for the Milford Great Walk have priority for the new Southern Milford-Mackinnon Experience. So far about a third of walkers who were previously booked between 26 – 29 February have rebooked the new option, and numbers are expected to increase for the final two months of the season.

Additional crews are being brought in to clear tracks in the Milford and Routeburn areas that were damaged in the extreme flood event on 3 February.

We are getting closer to announcing a decision about whether we can reopen part of the Routeburn Track this season. The damage from major slips between Mackenzie Hut and the Divide Shelter means the track will not fully reopen this season, but we're looking at options for independent walkers in areas where we have completed repairs.

Update Tuesday 25 February 3 pm

Additional crews are being brought in to clear tracks in the Milford and Routeburn areas that were damaged in the extreme flood event on 3 February.

We are looking at geotechnical assessments and assessing options for a partial reopening of the Routeburn Track where we have completed repairs. There remains damage on sections of the track, which means the track will not fully reopen this season. We will make a public announcement once decisions have been made.

We have now reopened 47 of the 77 tracks that were closed because of the storm.

In the meantime a popular short day walk accessed from the Glenorchy road end of the Routeburn Track has reopened for day visitors. The Routeburn Nature Walk, a 45 minute – 1 hour loop track, is popular with families and begins about 10 – 15 minutes from the main Routeburn Track.

New signage will be installed at the Entrance Bridge, advising walkers that the Nature Walk is open but there is still no access beyond Sugarloaf Bridge. The remainder of the Routeburn Track is still closed for repairs.

The Milford Track partially reopens as a three-day Southern Milford-Mackinnon experience on 26 February 2020.

Update Friday 21 February 3 pm 

A popular short day walk accessed from the Glenorchy road end of the Routeburn Track has reopened for day visitors today.

The Routeburn Nature Walk, a 45 minute - 1 hour loop track, is popular with families, and begins about 10 - 15 minutes from the main Routeburn Track

New signage will be installed at the Entrance Bridge, advising walkers that the Nature Walk is open but there is still no access beyond Sugarloaf Bridge. The remainder of the Routeburn Track is still closed for repairs.

We’re looking at options for a partial reopening of the Routeburn Track, which suffered extensive damage particularly between the Divide and Lake Mackenzie Hut. Our priority is the safety of our staff and visitors.

The Milford Track partially reopens as a three-day Southern Milford-Mackinnon experience on 26 February.

The Southern Milford-Mackinnon Experience is more challenging than the Milford Track Great Walk. We have contacted those with bookings from 1 March onwards with instructions with more information including how to cancel their booking for a full refund if they do not want to do the revised walk.

We’re continuing to work hard across the region to get tracks reopened and have mobilised more support to get people back out into nature faster.

Update Thursday 20 February 4 pm

The Milford track will partially reopen to independent walkers on 26 February for a shorter, three-day tramp: the Southern Milford-McKinnon experience.

People who were originally booked for the Milford Track will be given priority for the new Southern Milford-Mackinnon Experience.

The Rees Track and Greenstone Caples track have also reopened

The focus will now shift to looking at options for a partial reopening of the Routeburn Track, which suffered extensive damage particularly between the Divide and Lake MacKenzie Hut

Overall, 78 tracks across Fiordland, Otago and Southland were closed due to storm damage or road closures during the 3 February weather event. 

DOC’s making great progress across the region, with 48 on track to be open and operational in the next week.

If you’re planning to hike in the region check this website for track closures and updates before heading outdoors: see safety alerts for Fiordland and Otago.

Update Wednesday 19 February 3 pm

The Minister of Conservation has announced that the Milford Track will be partially reopened from 26 February.

This means people with existing bookings have the option to do a 3 day, 2 night hike up to Mackinnon Pass and back.

The last 7 km of the Milford Track is expected to be closed for some time because of flood damage.

Other tracks affected by storm damage are also beginning to reopen.

The Rees track – a popular backcountry track for experienced hikers – opened today from Muddy Creek to Dart Hut. Hikers will also be able to walk the Dart Valley as far as Daley’s Flat but will not be able to exit via Chinaman’s Bluff due to a damaged bridge and will need to return to exit the valley.

The Greenstone and Caples tracks also reopened today but hikers should be prepared to camp with limited availability at huts.

Both the Greenstone/Caples and Rees tracks are backcountry tracks that require a higher level of experience than a Great Walk.

The focus will now shift to looking at options for a partial reopening of the Routeburn Track, which suffered extensive damage particularly between the Divide and Lake MacKenzie Hut.

If you’re planning to hike in the region check this website for track closures and updates before heading outdoors: see safety alerts for Fiordland and Otago.

Update Tuesday 18 February 2 pm

The State of Emergency for Southland, including Fiordland, ended at 2.20 pm today.

Concessionaires operating guided experiences have been allowed back on part of the Milford track between Glade Wharf and Poseidon Creek.

We are working hard to open part of the Milford Track, including the Mackinnon Pass, for independent walkers and hope to have an announcement later this week with the details.

The last 7 km of the Milford Track is expected to be closed for some time because of flood damage.

Our attention will also start to focus on Routeburn as the next priority.

If you’re planning to hike in the region check this website for track closures and updates before heading outdoors: see safety alerts for Fiordland and Otago.

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 and Mt Aspiring 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.

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

Back to top