Hump Ridge site.
Image: Rachel Baxter | DOC

Introduction

The first spade hit the ground in Southland yesterday, to transform the spectacular and challenging Hump Ridge Track to Great Walk status.

Date:  04 April 2022

A Whakatau Te Whenua to settle the land, bless the track, and clear the way for construction to begin, was held by mana whenua mana moana of the rohe, Ōraka Aparima Rūnaka.

Ōraka Aparima Rūnaka Hakui Muriel Johnstone says the Whakatau Te Whenua acknowledged the many tūpuna (ancestors) who traversed these lands and waterways over the centuries, lived on the whenua, and gathered treasured mahika kai from the mountains to the sea - ki uta ki tai.

“In gathering here, we are reminded of one very ancient aranui (track) in this rohe (tribal area), which travelled up and over the vast, long ridge known as Okaka, and onwards to the many lakes and mountains throughout Fiordland,” says Muriel Johnstone.

As the youngest and oldest in attendance, Ollie Church (Ōraka Aparima) and Harold Thomas (Rowallan Alton Inc) shared the honour of turning the whenua on Rowallan Alton land, where the Hump Ridge Track begins.

DOC Southern South Island Director Aaron Fleming says the aim of this project is to take an existing walk, already steeped in cultural and historical significance and make it accessible to more people.

“This involves easing gradients, installing boardwalks, and future proofing sections of the track against climate change and natural hazards. We have engaged engineers and technical experts to make sure the track remains sound, and factored in emergency alternative routes, including new swing bridges.”

To make the Hump Ridge Track a ‘Great Walk’, Ōraka Aparima Rūnaka and DOC have worked in partnership to create an experience that shares the stories and rich history of the rūnaka and their tūpuna.

Ōraka Aparima Rūnaka Kaiwhakahaere Ann Wakefield says the Hump Ridge Great Walk will celebrate the special connection mana whenua have with the area.

“We are welcoming visitors into our rohe which is a place of immense significance to us, where trampers will have an opportunity to walk along the trails of our tūpuna and enjoy the spectacular whenua,” she says.

Aaron Fleming says Hump Ridge’s Great Walk status will bring recreation, conservation, and economic benefits to the region.

“Turning the Hump Ridge Track into a Great Walk means elevating it to the status of walks such as the Routeburn, Milford Track and Tongariro Northern Circuit.”

“Seeing the first spade go into the ground after all the planning is an exciting moment for everyone who has invested time and energy into this project. For those who remember, this is the realisation of a vision that harks back to the late 90’s when Tuatapere’s logging industry was declining, and the late Southland District Council Mayor Frana Cardno lobbied then Prime Minister Helen Clark for national funding to develop the track.

“The Hump Ridge will be a stunning addition to the Great Walks network.”

Completion of the Great Walk is set for the 2023/24 season. The Hump Ridge Track will continue to be open for bookings during construction, with public accessibility given priority.  

Background information

The Hump Ridge Great Walk Project is a collaboration between DOC and Ōraka Aparima Rūnaka, Hump Ridge Track Charitable Trust, Rowallan Alton Inc, SILNA landowners, Southland District Council, Port Craig Viaduct Charitable Trust, and other individuals and groups.

The track typically takes three days, with walking distances averaging 20km a day on varying terrains. Visitors will experience uphill sections through coastal forests, expansive beaches, historic viaduct bridges, old timber settlements, and the longest tramway sleeper walk in the southern hemisphere.

Once completed it will offer a more challenging Great Walk experience. Walkers need to ensure they plan and prepare well for their trip and have a reasonable level of fitness.

Contact

For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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