Date: 10 January 2013
The Department of Conservation reports that there has been widespread flooding within Fiordland National Park as a result of a storm that peaked between 9 pm and midnight last night.
The flooding has washed out sections of the Milford Track. The Department has initiated emergency response actions to keep the flow of trampers through the track. Weather peaked before midnight with up to 22 mm/hr of rain falling.
“While the full extent of the damage is still being determined we are doing everything within our ability to keep the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler up and running,” advises Annie Wallace, DOC spokesperson.
“Staff are being flown into the Milford Track to replace damaged bridges, and trampers are being flown over a short section of track before Mackinnon Pass. The independent and guided walkers are crossing Mackinnon Pass together due to high winds on the saddle. One way or another, a lot of trampers are going to have a very memorable new year tramp!”
“There has been further damage to the track down the Arthur valley but an early morning assessment indicates it is passable. The families that stayed on at Dumpling Hut will continue to Milford today,” Ms Wallace said. “At this stage we expect all trampers booked on the Milford Track to continue as planned.”
A prolonged electrical storm has damaged the radio repeater on the Milford Track exacerbating communication on the track.
On the Kepler Track all walkers managed to traverse the alpine section of the track yesterday in spite of high winds. The Iris Burn River flooded across the track. The roar of rocks crashing down the river could be heard as far away as Moturau Hut last night.
The Routeburn Track is closed at the Lake Mackenzie outlet – midway through the track - due to flooding. DOC advises that trampers on the track are all well and able to continue out at either end of the track and those booked to go onto the track can proceed but may need to come out the same way depending on when the flood levels subside.
Richard Kennett, DOC’s Visitor Assets Programme Manager in Queenstown further advises, “The Greenstone Track appears to be fine but the road is closed through Kinloch due to washouts. We are currently ferrying trampers off the Greenstone Track by boat.”
Mr Kennett recommends trampers not to use the Rees-Dart Track until the weather improves and the rivers drop. The Dart Road has also been washed out.
- The Milford, Kepler and Routeburn huts have essentially been at capacity at this peak tramping time.
- Peak rainfall was 22 mm/hr matching the intensity of the storm that occurred on 1 January but high winds accompanied this storm increasing the anticipated level of damage.
- Storm events occur at any time in Fiordland’s alpine environment. The Department of Conservation has extensive contingency planning in place to manage the effects of these events on the high use tracks. This includes having Great Walks Conservation Rangers at the huts, radio communications and contingency supplies such as a stock of steel truss bridges that can be flown immediately to affected areas.