Percy Burn viaduct
Image: Stephen Patience | DOC


This project seeks to develop the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track into a Great Walk.


In 2019, it was announced that the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track would become Aotearoa New Zealand’s next (11th) Great Walk.

The track opened in late November 2001, as a multi-day hike, and is run privately on behalf of the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track Charitable Trust.

It will be a stunning addition to the Great Walks network. Located in Te Wāhipounamu, the south-west corner of the South Island, the track journeys through spectacular and diverse landscapes, including seascapes, sandy beaches, native forests and an alpine environment with soaring limestone tors.

About the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track

The Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track is a 3-day, 61 km loop walk, that takes trampers along the south coast of western Southland, up to the sub-alpine zone of the Hump Ridge and over historic viaducts (bridges) surrounded by native forest.

The idea for this track came in 1988 as a response to the loss of NZ Forestry Services from Tuatapere, after the ban on native logging in the mid-1980s. The Tuatapere & Districts Promotions Group suggested the construction of a tramping track would be an opportunity to support the community, with jobs and the income brought into the area from the visiting track walkers.

The idea was embraced, and the community provided numerous volunteer hours, skills, tools and resources from 1994 to 2001 to create the track.

It opened in November 2001 and is operated by a not-for-profit business, Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track Inc., on behalf of the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track Charitable Trust.

The track currently begins at the Rarakau carpark, which is located about 30 km from Tuatapere. It traverses several South Island Landless Native Act (SILNA) blocks before it crosses into Fiordland National Park. The southern section of the walk follows the DOC-managed South Coast Track.

This area has a rich history. The stories of mana whenua/iwi and the forestry heritage, including the viaducts and Port Craig, will be part of the Great Walk experience.

About the project

The goal of this project is to develop the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track into a Great Walk.

The aim is for it to be a world-class visitor experience that reflects the significant cultural and heritage values of the area and inspires increased conservation advocacy.

Information about the Great Walk selection process can be found on the Selecting new Great Walks webpage.

Although the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track has been operational as a multi-day hike for more than 20 years, work is needed to bring it to the Great Walk standard. This includes upgrades to the track surface, structures and carpark, as well as the interpretation and storytelling package.

There are several challenges to be addressed for this project to succeed. These include:

  • bringing the South Coast Track up to Great Walk standard, including fixing drainage
  • ensuring legal access across all private land that the track crosses
  • ensuring safety concerns on and around the track are addressed
  • ensuring the viaducts can be managed and maintained for long term public access
  • developing a long-term management strategy for the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track Charitable Trust to manage the track effectively and safely.

Working with others

The DOC Strategic Projects Team leads the project with oversight from a Governance Group that includes mana whenua, namely Te Rūnanga o Ōraka-Aparima, the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track Charitable Trust and the track operating business, the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track Inc.

The project team are also working with the various stakeholders that have a relationship to the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track, including SILNA representatives, Rowallan Alton Inc., Southland District Council, Heritage New Zealand and Port Craig Viaducts Charitable Trust.

The track crosses land managed by DOC and Southland District Council, SILNA blocks, as well as areas owned by Rowallan Alton Inc. and other private individuals or groups. Good representation and cooperation from all parties will ensure the project is successful.

At the conclusion of the project, the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track Charitable Trust will continue to manage and operate the upgraded track and facilities as a Great Walk.

Community benefit

The project is expected to benefit the local area – through additional employment, business opportunities and the increased tourism/visitor spend.

The closed borders and loss of international tourism due to COVID-19 restrictions has resulted in a substantial increase in New Zealanders visiting the great outdoors – especially during the summer season and public holidays.

There has already been an increase in usage of the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track since the 2019 Great Walk announcement.

Planned work

As of October 2021, the scoping of the on-the-ground work has finished.

The high-level experience design, which includes storytelling and interpretation, is ongoing.

The detailed business case is currently being prepared. This will confirm the project cost and will outline the work.

While some initial work began in late 2021, the main construction phase will happen in 2022 and into 2023. The project is forecast for completion in late 2023.


If you want to know more about the project, or be added to the distribution list for the project newsletters, email

This is a shared project mailbox that is monitored regularly and one of the project team will get back to you.

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