Introduction

Visitors can now enjoy new and upgraded Department of Conservation facilities at popular sites on the Copland Track and at Lake Matheson in South Westland due to be opened tomorrow.

Visitors can now enjoy new and upgraded Department of Conservation facilities at popular sites on the Copland Track and at Lake Matheson in South Westland due to be opened tomorrow. 

The new facilities will better provide for the growing tourism based around conservation attractions on the West Coast, says DOC Conservation Services Manager Wayne Costello. 

“Lonely Planet recently ranked the West Coast as one of the top ten regions in the world for travel in 2014 based on the wilderness, glaciers, walking and biking tracks and gems such as Lake Matheson.” 

Lake Matheson. Photo: Stefan Pasel (cc)
Lake Matheson. Photo: Stefan Pasel

“The track to Welcome Flat is the second busiest on the Coast behind the Heaphy Track and we’re expecting that to grow.” 

A new shelter and information panels at the Copland Track road end on SH 6, to be unveiled by Ngāi Tahu kaumatua Sir Tipene O’Regan, tell the Ngai Tahu history about the route over Noti Hinetamatea or the Copland Pass.  

Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio chairman Paul Madgwick says Ngāti Mahaki are proud to continue a centuries-old association with both the Copland Track and Lake Matheson. 

"While the 'modern' Copland Track was built about 100 years ago, as Te Ara Tawhito o Hinetamatea this alpine trail has a much older history that connected the old Māori settlements of Mahitahi (Bruce Bay), Makaawhio (Jacobs River) and Ōkārito with the east coast. 

Tipene O'Regan unveiling and blessing the new Copland road end interpretation panels. Photo: K. Henderson.
Tipene O'Regan unveiling and blessing the new Copland road end interpretation panels.
Photo: Katrina Henderson

“Originally discovered hundreds of years ago by Hinetamatea and her whānau, it was rarely used for alpine crossing because of the degree of difficulty, but it was always known by the tangata whenua that a crossing existed in this part of the Southern Alps," he says. 

Further inland the popular Welcome Flat Hut, on the Copland Track, has had a major upgrade to accommodate the growing numbers of visitors more comfortably.  A new hut warden quarters has been built and the old quarters developed into ‘up-market’ accommodation—the Sierra Room—now available for online booking.    

elcome Flat Hut, on the Copland Track, has had a major upgrade.
Welcome Flat Hut, on the Copland Track, has had a major upgrade. Photo: Katrina Henderson

At Lake Matheson, a new car park and restrooms (together costing $1.9 million) will provide quality facilities to the more than 200,000 people who visit this world renowned lake.  New landscaping and information panels at the start of the Lake Matheson Walk, developed with the Matheson Café and ReflectionNZ gift shop, will also enhance visitor experience of this beautiful area. 

Lake Matheson is famous for its mirror-like mountain reflections and in the past was an important eeling lake for Ngāti Mahaki.

Background information 

The new interpretation panels at the start of the Copland Track tell the story of Hinetamatea, a Ngāi Tahu ancestress, who discovered Noti Hinetamatea or the Copland Pass.  It’s the first time the Māori history of this popular walk has been acknowledged in this way. 

The $230,000 upgrade to the 31-bunk Welcome Flat Hut (built in 1986) includes a spacious new lounge and dining area, new fireplace and four new bunkrooms (from what was originally a single sleeping room).  About 4500 people stay at this hut each year.  In the last five years significant improvements have been made to the Copland Track, including nine new bridges across rivers. 

Lake Matheson is nestled in ancient forest just 5 km from Fox Glacier/Weheka and is famous for its mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman/ Horo-kōau.  Of the 200,000 visitors to the lake, 85% are overseas tourists and 15% New Zealanders. 


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