Date: 28 August 2012
Two more sections of track on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the Tongariro Northern Circuit are re-opening this weekend.
The Department of Conservation is working closely with Ngāti Tūwharetoa through local hapu Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, and community and business leaders to re-open the tracks to Red Crater and Oturere Hut to trampers on Saturday 1 September 2012.
A blessing ceremony, Te Whakapainga (the journey to make right), will take place at Mangatepopo Road car park, the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on Friday morning in preparation for the re-opening to the public the following day.
Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro spokesman Te Ngaehe Wanikau says the mountain has spoken. It is very important that we have listened to what the maunga has said, and before we re-open the maunga (mountain) and the whenua (land) to the people, that we respect and honour it with a blessing.
Members of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro hapu will support the re-opening by welcoming trampers to the maunga and whenua at Mangatepopo car park. They will talk to visitors about the cultural significance of the maunga (mountain) and the land (whenua) as well as sharing some of the stories of our people says Te Ngaehe.
Although the alert level has been lowered and the hazard zone revised, there is still a 3 km radius hazard zone focussed around Upper Te Maari crater, and therefore a 3 km risk area in place.
DOC’s Ruapehu Area Manager Nic Peet says the safety of staff and the public is paramount. When the high risk area was reduced further the rest of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Northern Circuit would be opened up.
DOC has been busy preparing for the re-opening working closely with Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, operators and other agencies on new signage, barriers, interpretive material and other associated resources.
“Everything will be in place for this re-opening, including all the new signage and barriers.”
A pou will also to be installed at Red Crater with information about the history and cultural significance of the maunga and whenua to the tangata whenua, and also information about the eruption.
A Rāhui (protective restriction) has been placed on entering the 3 km high risk area by Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, who hold Manawhenua (governing rights) over the lands. This upholds a traditional Maori custom (Tikanga Maori) to ensure the safety and protection of all people entering the region. The Rāhui covers the area of tracks that are within 3 km of the eruption site and as a result have been closed by DOC.
The sections of track re-opening on Saturday are from Mangatepopo Road to Red Crater and also the track from Waihohonu Hut to Oturere Hut.
The section of track from Oturere Hut to Red Crater remains closed at this stage, along with the section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from Red Crater to Ketetahi Road.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing as a whole will take longer to re-open as the damage to facilities and tracks needs to be made safe. DOC staff will assess the track damage inside the 3 km hazard zone once this area is safe to re-enter.
“However, if the current inactivity continues and the high risk area is further reduced the Tongariro Alpine Crossing will be open before the summer tramping season starts,” Nic says.
Nic says “It is great to see the whole community – iwi, hapu, business leaders, tourism operators and agencies – working together to provide safe public access to one of New Zealand’s most special places.”
All other facilities, activities and alternative walking tracks are fully operational within the Tongariro National Park.