The future of great walks

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The future of great walks

Postby wayno » Sun 25 Jun, 2017 5:16 am

i started out adding to the current thread on info around the routebutn, but i ended up straying off into a different topic so am posting it as a different thread. the other side of lake mackenzie lake on the routebun is a boulder field and the rangers can take a dim view because its not technically far enough from a great walk to allow camping. they are cracking down on illegal camping its a big problem, make sure you're 500m away from the track and its facilities and side tracks, and that is easier said than done in a lot of places around there. unfortunately illegal campers are giving other people a bad name, i've seen them leave all their rubbish behind, take advantage of walking the track for nothing and expect to be able to leave their rubbish behind, the rules are that everything has to be packed out, theres no rubbish bins at the huts or campsites. Europeans are more used to more facilities around, but from what i've heard theres also a lot of problems in europe on more popular routes with people just doing their toilet out in the open and not covering it up afterwards or randomly dumping rubbish... the rangers are over worked as it is, they dont want to play policeman but they are made to with their job. the popularity of the great walks will be their undoing.

the rules around the great walks are strange, if you're not paying for a campsite or hut , you can still walk on the track if you have to overnight, as long as you get 500m away from the track, so that rule discourages a lot of people, it can be pretty rough country off track in places on great walks and they often arent into walking off track, and dont want to have to walk 500m through steep terrain thats rough underfoot or through thick forest, where it can be hard to find a campsite in places, especially on the milford where most of the terrain near the track is near vertical, so it minimises the no of people who overnight for free.. so people try and camp wherever they can, and dont care that its within 500m of the track, if its out of sight, or if they dont think theres a ranger around they will camp in sight of the track, and in places the bush is so thick in places you could camp out of sight of the track within 100m of the track, so the 500m rule becomes an honesty system which gets abused a lot. so the rule doesnt work, but its still a rule that is expected to be followed, the govt are looking at giving rangers more power to issue fines on people, it wouldnt surprise me if they get the power to expel people from parks as they do overseas, because at present people arent that worried about breaking the rules, they probably dont think anything serious will come of it if they get caught, but they are going to ruin it for other people in the end and it will be more like america where rangers are more like policemen in the parks.
the 500m rule seems like a rule that is there to discourage people wanting to walk the tracks without paying, but it doesnt stop it happening and doesnt outright say you can't do that. the rules may get tighter, a fortune is spent on the great walks and the govt want their value for money from them and are looking at them more like a cash cow, they have increased hut fees and are talking about charging more for overseas visitors, which will just increase the amount of people looking to camp for free on the tracks since a lot of poor backpackers walk the tracks.. its up to $70 a night at some of the great walk huts now, day walkers can stop at huts for nothing, they arent supposed to use the gas but I've repeatedly seem them do it half the time i talk to someone using th stove in the middle of the day, they are day walkers, so overnight walkers are subsidising everything for overseas day walkers.
those old enough to remember will recall that the milford track used to be only for people willing to pay for fully serviced huts and it cost a great deal more to work than using current DOC huts.... fully serviced huts have been expanding on the routeburn, even though the park plan bans it.... but we seem to be edging back towards a model of more exclusive access, the govt are using the Dept of conservation more and more like an eco tourism organisation and privatising as much as they can.... the reality is some walks like the routeburn are so popular they could still fill up the huts if they kept ratcheting up the fees and the govt are aware of that, and thats what they are slowly doing, it wasnt that long ago that the routeburn huts were half the price of what they are today. the track is turned more into a footpath and road every year, mission creep.... most NZ trampers generally avoid the great walks and there isnt the political interst from them to effectively stop what the govt are doing, in a way those walks are seen as sacrificial lambs, let the masses inundate those tracks so they can have peace and quiet on tracks elsewhere
from the land of the long white clouds...

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Re: The future of great walks

Postby tomh » Sun 25 Jun, 2017 11:24 am

As a frequent enjoyer of NZ tracks around 10 years ago (when even in Jan-Mar you encountered few or no other trampers on well-known tracks) it is very sad to read about the state track use has now reached. A quick Google search shows the problem has been known about for some time - this from 18 months ago
http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/294829/rogue-campers-'ruining'-great-walks
but apparently little has been done to reduce the problem. The promotion of great walks has obviously been for commercial reasons and too successful but any attempt to limit the success is met with opposition from commercially vested interests. Considering those priority interests the use of volunteers to move illegal campers on is a cynical use of free labour. As a volunteer would you want to try and force a group of campers to break up and move on? (note however the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation provides comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover.)

No answer to minimising track impact comes to mind other than frequent, strong and obvious policing (not by rangers) paid for by commercial interests and subsidised with heavy fines.
Last edited by tomh on Sun 25 Jun, 2017 11:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The future of great walks

Postby wayno » Sun 25 Jun, 2017 11:37 am

DOC have had their budget slashed and told to make up the deficit through charging and bringng in commercial operators into the parks.
they have been increasing the amount of volunteer labour massively for decades while the staff numbers have been slashed.... volunteers cant replaced very skilled very experienced staff, one volunteer died because of lack of experience when he went to an exposed coastline and was swept away by a rogue wave...
DOC are fighting a loosing battle with major issues around forest destruction and greatly reduced numbers of numerous native animals from introduced pests.
but they are forced to put more of their limited resources into running what are now essentially tourist ventures, building a few flash tracks with flash huts, and maintaining a smaller and smaller no of total tracks, they announced they would remove any hut that wasnt deemed to be getting enough use, even if the hut is still in a usable condition and those huts are often essential emergency shelters in bad weather and have saved many a life over the decades. most of our hut system is being run into the ground, although a massive amount of volunteer labour goes into maintaining as many huts as the volunteers can managef, theres 900 huts and they cant maintain them all
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The future of great walks

Postby RonK » Sun 25 Jun, 2017 1:45 pm

The reality is this issue affects not only the walking tracks but the entire country. Anybody reading the NZ press in recent years could not help but notice the escalating complaints about freedom campers despoiling sites all around the country, dangerous driving by tourists, overcrowding etc. And I have observed it for myself over successive visits.

With more and more visitors there is inevitably more impact. No doubt it's wonderful to have the massive economic benefits of the tourist dollars, but NZ has been way too successful at attracting visitors. And having attracted them, there is no choice but to provide infrastructure and facilities to accommodate them or see the place reduced to garbage dump.
Last edited by RonK on Sun 25 Jun, 2017 2:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The future of great walks

Postby wayno » Sun 25 Jun, 2017 1:57 pm

we've attracted no's of tourists that are now way beyond our infrastructure to cope with...
the Te Araroa trail is being advertised on general tourism websites for NZ.... some areas of the trail have tiny huts and get overloaded, there are long sections of 20-30k where you arent allowed to camp because it goes through public land, people stop and camp and the land owners then think about whether they still want to let the increasing no's of walkers on their land...
becaus of issues with freedom campers camping and messing where they aren't supposed to be, some regions have put blanket bans on them, which put increasing pressure on other areas , or has the campers just becoming more stealthy and creating more messes elsewhere. laws are being put in place to demand all camper vans have some sort of toilet but a lot of the rental companies charge sometimes hundreds to clean the toilets afterwards especially if they havent been emptied and renters avoid using them at all
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