Date: 10 October 2013
Great news for users of the iconic Tongariro Alpine Crossing (TAC), the Department of Conservation announced today that the track will remain open for the summer trekking season, subject to any significant changes in the volcanic activity on the track.
DOC has been involved in two streams of work in the lead up to this decision. The first has been in association with GNS Science, and Massey, Waikato and Canterbury universities in collaboration with Ngati Hikairo, to assess the level of risk posed by possible further eruptions from the Te Maari craters to trekkers on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track nearby. The second has been to develop a new range of tools to reduce risks. This has helped lead to the decision to allow the track to remain open as we head into the summer. The probability of a further eruption has declined sufficiently so that, in association with the new tools, the risk to the public has been brought down to a tolerable level.
“In this dynamic landscape we are always mindful of the risks it poses to people who use our track network,” says Meirene Hardy-Birch, Central Region Director of Services for the Department of Conservation. “It is an active volcanic area, and while this is an intrinsic part of its attraction to visitors, it poses challenges for all as we try to balance the public risks and benefits associated with it. We have encouraging data from GNS Science and GeoNet indicating the volcanic unrest under Te Maari is levelling. We have also had great support from the guiding and transport concessionaires on ways to better inform users of the Crossing about the hazards on the track. This combined with other risk mitigation measures DOC has put in place have allowed the track to remain open at this time.”
With the increased use expected for the summer, any escalation in the volcanic activity under the mountain would result in the status of the TAC being reviewed, as any eruption during this time could have disastrous results. In the meantime DOC reminds visitors to Tongariro National Park that eruptions can occur with little or no warning so it is advisable people don’t linger on the northern section of the TAC track between the Blue Lake and Ketetahi car park.
The DOC website has been updated to reflect the volcanic hazards around the TAC, and visitors should make themselves familiar with this before considering going across the TAC. There is also a suite of new signage at the car parks to inform people heading along the track.