Date: 13 March 2009
The Department of Conservation will not be increasing fees for huts and campgrounds on public conservation land this year.
“In these challenging economic times it is common sense to ensure that people can continue to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about increased charges," Al Morrison, the Director- General of Conservation said.
“The family friendly policy of the Great Walks being free to under 18’s, will be retained,” Mr Morrison said.
“This summer, revenue from the recreation facilities is holding up. New Zealanders are staying at home and enjoying camping and other outdoor experiences on their conservation land."
However he said the Department is concerned at that some people are not paying their fees.
"Costs continue to increase, international visitor numbers are declining and this means there are significant uncertainties around future revenue," Mr Morrison said. "When people use facilities without paying their fees that puts extra pressure on and makes it harder to hold fees. It is unfair to the majority who do pay."
The department relies on honesty in many places and Mr Morrison appealed to people to pay the modest fees.
The department has also moved to an on-line booking system that allows people to secure places in huts on the Great Walks two years ahead. Mr Morrison said this will provide greater certainty for recreational users and tourism operators, enabling them to plan their trips well in advance.
Last year there were some modest fee increases for hut charges on the great walks, which had not risen for four years, and for serviced huts in other areas, where prices had been stable since 1999.
The Department manages a network of 12,800 km of tracks, 940 huts and 250 camp grounds and skiing opportunities on areas such as Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park. It is estimated there are 33 million visitors annually to conservation lands (this includes repeat visitors). There are nine Great Walks on public conservation land.
The Department’s pricing policy for recreation fees on conservation land, sets out five principles by which fees will be determined. The principles are based around consistency, standard of facility provided and fees not being a significant barrier to recreating in protected areas. They recognise, however, that those who derive benefit from these facilities should contribute to their upkeep.