Paparoa Track proving a success
IntroductionDOC is hailing the success of the Paparoa Track Great Walk since it opened in 2019.
Date: 25 August 2023
The track was created in partnership between DOC, Ngāti Waewae and the families of the 29 men who died as a result of the Pike River mine disaster in November 2010. The Pike families wanted to create social and economic benefits for the West Coast including sustainable and resilient jobs in local communities.
A DOC report ‘Paparoa National Park Management Plan – Paparoa Track Visitor Use Review’ has assessed the first two years of visitor use of the track, from 1 March 2020 to 28 February 2022.
DOC Western South Island Director Operations Mark Davies says it shows the track has more than lived up to expectations.
“In terms of hut bednights the track has been one of the higher-performing Great Walks comparable with the Kepler and Routeburn. When we did the track feasibility study in 2015 we set an optimistic target of 2500 hut bednights for the first year of operation. We far exceeded that with 4720 bednights in 2020/21 and 6620 in 2021/22.”
The track opened shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic forced border closures.
“Despite the pandemic it was a top performing Great Walk during 2021-22 as many New Zealanders wanted to check out the country’s newest great walk; 93% of visitors reported being very or extremely satisfied with their experience”, says Mark Davies.
The report shows between 22-26% of those using the dual use track are mountain bikers. An estimated 1000 per year are either riding right through in one day or doing day trips from the Blackball end. There are also plenty of mountain bikers coming in for the day at the Punakaiki end of the track, via the Waikori Road access, as well as day walkers coming through the Pororari River Track entrance.
Ninety percent of track users said they had no issues with it being a shared track.
The review included a survey of the surrounding community and businesses to assess the economic and social benefits the track has provided. Direct spend in the surrounding area from Paparoa Track overnight visitors is estimated to be approximately $3.38 million.”
Responses show 11 permanent full-time equivalent jobs and 16 full-time equivalent seasonal jobs have been created in the community following the track opening.
“Interestingly the Paparoa Track is attracting an older age profile with 50-55% of visitors in the 50–69-year age bracket compared with a median age of 31 on the Great Walks generally”, says Mark Davies.
“Most domestic track users are currently coming from Canterbury, Wellington, Nelson/Tasman, Auckland and Otago. We’re expecting international visitor numbers to rise to 24-38% of walkers and 16% of bikers in future.”
However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, he says. “The Paparoa Track is still in its infancy and the first two years were affected by Covid, severe weather and closures from road works. There are higher maintenance costs with a track such as this due to its specific design for dual use and as it is still ‘bedding down’.
“We’re planning to open the Pike29 Memorial Track this summer which will bring a change to overnight and day visitors use. The impact of these changes won’t be fully clear until surveys are completed after June 2025.
“Because of that we’re unlikely to make any big decisions on hut extensions or provision of camping sites until after June 2025.”
The report was presented to the West Coast Conservation Board today. It had already been shared with Pike families and Ngāti Waewae.
The 'Paparoa Track Great Walk - Visitor Use Review - monitoring and evaluation report' informs the West Coast Conservation Board about the Paparoa National Park Management Plan Milestones and the track’s first two years of visitor use.
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