Date: 01 February 2013
This summer points to a significant rise in the number of people doing the country’s Great Walks, the Department of Conservation says.
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Dave Insull and friends enjoy the Abel Tasman Coast Track
December figures for seven of the Great Walks – Lake Waikaremoana, Whanganui Journey, Abel Tasman Coast Track, Heaphy Track, Routeburn Track, Kepler Track and Rakiura Track – show an increase in visitors of between 7% and 32% compared to the same month in 2011.
Both the Heaphy and Kepler had a quarter more walkers over this peak period than the previous year. Only numbers on the Tongariro Northern Circuit were down due to the Mount Tongariro eruptions closing part of the circuit. The Milford Track was at capacity both years.
More than 80,000 New Zealand and overseas visitors took themselves on a Great Walk last year benefiting local communities, conservation and the economy, DOC Director of Commercial Business Dave Wilks says.
“Not only are these walks a great way to experience some of the best New Zealand has to offer but the Great Walks also play a significant part in their local economies.”
While it is difficult to provide exact figures, every walker is spending money on transport, accommodation and provisions so increased track traffic will have positive spin offs for related businesses, Mr Wilks says.
“A number of things probably contributed to the December increase including promotions from DOC’s new partnership with Air New Zealand with the new Great Walks website and travel and accommodation packages. The settled weather prior to Christmas probably also helped.”
“It’s great to see more people than ever out doing the Great Walks. They’re our best tramping tracks with stunning scenery and comfortable and well-equipped huts. And they are still not crowded.”
Use of the nine Great Walks has steadily increased over the last 20 years but there is still plenty of room for more people in the huts and campsites of nearly all the Great Walks, Mr Wilks says.
The huts on the Tongariro Northern Circuit, Lake Waikaremoana, Whanganui Journey, Heaphy Track and Rakiura Track on Stewart Island have the most room, while the more-popular Kepler, Routeburn and Abel Tasman Coast tracks also have spare beds although you need to book further ahead. Only the Milford Track is nearing capacity.
The nine Great Walks are multi-day walks (and one paddle – the Whanganui Journey) through awe-inspiring scenery on conservation land.
In 1992 DOC classified eight of the finest and most popular multi-day tramping tracks on conservation land as ‘Great Walks’. Most were in national parks and all had outstanding scenery. Rakiura Track on Stewart Island/Rakiura was the newest track – completed in November of that year. Several years later the Whanganui Journey was added.
Over the last 20 years, the tracks, huts, campsites and other facilities on Great Walks have been considerably improved.
The most popular Great Walk is the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, followed by the Routeburn, Kepler and Milford. The least well used is the Rakiura, although numbers on this track have increased significantly in recent times due to track and hut upgrades and its inclusion in the nation-wide booking system.
More New Zealanders than overseas visitors enjoy four of our Great Walks – Lake Waikaremoana, Whanganui Journey, Heaphy Track and Rakiura Track. Conversely, the Tongariro Northern Circuit, Kepler, Routeburn, Milford and Abel Tasman Coast tracks are more popular with international visitors.
This year Air New Zealand and DOC entered into a three-year commercial partnership, which includes support for new biodiversity programmes around the Great Walks network and promotion of the Great Walks themselves.
Next month the four winners of the inaugural Air New Zealand Great Walker competition begin their challenge of walking all nine Great Walks in nine weeks. More than 1000 people from 45 countries entered.
See the Great Walk videos on the Great Walks website.
DOC media advisors: Fiona Oliphant/Lizzy Sutcliffe +64 27 470 1378