Date: 16 January 2013
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing trek continues to attract large numbers of visitors, even though the northern section of the track from the Emerald Lakes to the Ketetahi carpark remains closed and the Mangatepopo access road has restricted access.
DOC Ruapehu Area Manager Jonathan Maxwell commented that, “We are pleased that visitor numbers have remained high over the summer, although we understand the frustration faced by many visitors with the closure of the Mangatepopo Road to private vehicles. DOC has not made the decision to restrict access on the Mangatepopo Road to bus concessionaires lightly, and it recognises the added financial burden this places on visitors and families who want to walk on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. However, it was not possible to build more carparks, nor widen the road to cater for the increased numbers of vehicles.”
DOC is presently collating information on the current levels of volcanic activity at Te Maari which last erupted on 21 November 2012. A review of the risk to public safety from using the northern section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which runs within 1.8 km of the active vents of Te Maari, will be made in early February.
The aim is to re-open the rest of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track as soon as possible, however the public must be aware that Tongariro is an active volcanic zone and there will always be the risk of further eruptions without any pre-warning.
“When the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is fully open again, the traffic flows into the Mangatepopo carpark will return to a manageable level and Mangatepopo Road will be re-opened”, said Jonathan.
“We are also very concerned about reports from accommodation owners that the numbers of visitors staying in the area are down. We certainly can’t underestimate the impact that the closure of the northern section of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the Mangatepopo Road restrictions have on these businesses.”
The volcanic status of Mt Ruapehu remains unchanged since before the New Year with a 2 km radius Volcanic Hazard Zone still in place. Visitors are advised not to enter this zone on the summit of Mt Ruapehu as there is still a heightened risk of an eruption without any prior warning. Visitors are encouraged to take a chairlift ride to the Knoll Ridge and walk on the tracks outside of the Summit Hazard Zone. The Tama Lakes track has also been very popular this summer with stunning views of the mountains and very unique scenery.