Date: 01 February 2013
The Department of Conservation reminds visitors to heed local advice and not underestimate Fiordland's terrain after a group of tourists was severely shaken recently. The group attempted an alternative route onto the Milford Great Walk Track to avoid paying hut and boat fees.
The five international tourists were ill prepared for the alpine pass route, had inappropriate clothing and footwear, and little to no previous tramping experience. They described several near misses crossing the alternative route and they had frequently lost their way.
"Visitors need to heed advice that outside of the Great Walks Fiordland can be a difficult place to navigate without experience," said DOC programme manager Annie Wallace. "They were lucky with the weather. If it had become cold or wet this could be a very different story."
Once on the Milford Track, the group camped illegally in an emergency shelter. "Poor planning, especially when going against advice provided, is not an excuse for illegal camping. They were charged for their illegal use of facilities," Ms Wallace said. "Tracks are well monitored by DOC and Guided Walks staff."
The high visitor demand to use the Great Walks tracks is managed through the booking system in order to protect the natural values and maintain integrity of the visitor experience in these natural environments. Camping on the Milford Track is not permitted, and on the Kepler and Routeburn Tracks is only permitted at specified campsites as part of preserving this experience.
This illegal activity is not isolated to the Milford Track. Campers arrive at the Routeburn Track campsites without booking on a regular basis and there have been two separate incidents in the past week where DOC staff have found people illegally camped on the Kepler Track. These incidents appear to be on the increase and it is likely that these opportunities are being communicated via social media around the backpacker and tourist networks. Anyone found in breach of rules or bylaws can expect the appropriate penalties.
- Hut or campsite bookings are required on the Milford Track and other Great Walks in Fiordland during the Great Walks Season, which runs from late October until late April every year.
- The Milford Track gets fully booked early each season; travellers need to plan well in advance. The Routeburn and Kepler Tracks are less busy, but are typically heavily booked well in advance during peak periods.
- The cost to trampers using the tracks and facilities reflects the operational cost of establishing, running, and maintaining the Great Walk visitor experiences.
- 'Hut fees' cover hut and track maintenance as required throughout the year. This includes signage and track marking, 24-hour hut staffing during the Great Walks season, as well as first aid, emergency communication, and day to day communications for information updates, such as weather updates and head counts. It also covers general servicing of the huts, including gas for cooking, cleaning equipment and maintenance of the toilets.
DOC Programme Manager Visitor Assets
Te Anau Area Office
Phone: +64 3 249 0200