An example of off-road vehicle damage at Macetown Historic Reserve
Image: DOC


DOC and New Zealand Police are reminding four-wheel drive users to stick to formed roads and drive with care this summer.

Date:  11 January 2024

The call for responsible use of vehicles comes after damage has been reported at popular four-wheel driving destinations historic Macetown, Skippers township and the Chinamans Flat area.

DOC Whakatipu Operations Manager David Butt says the damage caused by off road vehicles is concerning.

“DOC rangers have seen recent damage to terrain and vegetation around the historic Skippers township from people using motorbikes.

“Both Macetown Historic Reserve and Chinamans Flat have suffered from four-wheel drive vehicle use causing wheel ruts that will likely take decades to heal on the fragile vegetation and soils.”

“Threatened native birds nest on the gravelly areas of braided rivers such as the Dart River, which is near Chinamans Flat. Please save lives and avoid driving in braided rivers from August, when these birds start nesting, until the end of February.”

People can head out to enjoy these beautiful locations, but just be mindful of where you are and stick to the formed roads and tracks, David says.

Area Road Policing Manager Steve Watt says police are concerned about growing vandalism caused by off-road vehicle use in backcountry reserves.

“We’d like to remind all users of the Macetown and Skippers tracks these are public roads and normal road rules apply. We encourage the community to explore what our region has to offer but want people to respect these areas and be considerate so everyone can enjoy them,” says Steve.

Anyone responsible for damage on a public reserve can face imprisonment and/or a fine under the Reserves Act 1997 or the Conservation Act 1987.

The vehicle access to both Macetown and Skippers is challenging and includes sections of narrow road with steep drop-offs, and blind corners. The Macetown track has multiple landslides. Experience in rough conditions is essential and drivers are responsible for recovering their own vehicles in the event of a mishap. Drivers should ensure they check the weather conditions before heading out. The DOC website states vehicles must stay on roads and recognised vehicle tracks.

Anyone who sees any illegal or suspicious activity can contact the 24-hour DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately and report it. All calls and personal details are treated confidentially.

Background information

Macetown, located 23 river crossings from Arrowtown, dates back to the early 1860s when gold was discovered in the Arrow River. By the 1930s it was a ghost town. Today Macetown is an Historic Reserve with its major structures restored, including a gold-mining battery, cottage, and bakehouse. Visitors can walk, mountain bike, motorbike or four-wheel drive along the access trail to Macetown, depending on weather conditions and river levels.

The historic Skippers township is part of Mount Aurum Recreation Reserve and it also experienced gold fever is the 1860s. This area offers dramatic views and great recreation opportunities including walking, camping, kayaking, mountain biking, picnicking, and rafting.

Visitor numbers to the Whakatipu District are expected to increase over the summer months. Check the DOC website for places you can take your four-wheel drive or motorbike, as well as places to walk, climb, mountain bike, camp, horse ride, raft and boat. NZ Police and DOC hope you enjoy your time in the outdoors and ask you respect the environment by keeping your vehicle on recognised vehicle tracks.


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