Chris' Blog
Fee increases for some DOC facilities
Posted: Saturday 5 July 2008 by Chris

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has announced some modest fee increases for some of its high profile walks for the coming season/year.

In announcing the increases, Acting General Manager Operations - Southern, Graeme Ayres stressed that most of the hut charges on the Great Walks had not increased for four years, and in the case of the serviced huts in other areas, these had been stable since 1999.

Most of the fee increases affect the Great Walks and will add $5 to the cost of a hut for an adult hut ticket. On the Milford and Routeburn tracks for example, the cost will rise from $40 to $45 per night, and on Tongariro the cost will rise from $20 to $25 per night.

There will be no increase in charges for the facilities on either the Abel Tasman Track and the Waikaremoana Great Walk, as these were increased last year, and nor is the Whanganui Great Walk to be part of this current fee increase.

The cost of serviced huts will rise from $10 per night to $15. There are 95 serviced huts, mainly in backcountry locations throughout the country, and they are serviced in the sense that heating fuel is provided for hut occupants. There will be no change in the charges for the use of standard huts and there are over 400 of these on walking tracks throughout the country.

The fee increases are effective from 1 July 2008.

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Source: Department of Conservation

Tongariro Crossing Track Renamed
Posted: Saturday 17 November 2007 by Chris

New Zealand’s most popular one-day trek across Mt Tongariro in the central North Island is being renamed the ‘Tongariro Alpine Crossing’. The new name better reflects the nature and terrain of the track and coincides with the start of the Great Walks season.

The change of name was decided upon at a recent meeting between representatives from Tourism NZ, the Department of Conservation, the Tourism Industry Association, the Ministry of Tourism and the NZ Police. The meeting was held to discuss safety aspects of the track and follows concerns that many visitors who undertake the Crossing are under-prepared both in terms of equipment and expectation.

Advising the public and the tourism industry of the name change is complex and DOC is working closely with Tourism New Zealand, local I-sites and tourist operators to get the message across.

DOC is also undertaking a number of other practical initiatives to improve public safety. These include an ongoing project to upgrade the track surface and alignment, developing a deviation of what is known as the ‘devil’s staircase’ and new signs at strategic points suggesting visitors turn back if their fitness or the weather is failing. DOC also hopes to improve the descent from Red Crater to Emerald Lakes, where many injuries are known to occur.

In contrast to many South Island tracks, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is easily accessible and impressing the changeable nature of its alpine conditions is an ongoing challenge.

“It’s an 18.5 kilometre trek over a mountain – yes it’s rugged and also has some of New Zealand’s most stunning landscape,’’ says Dave Lumley, the Turangi Taupo Area Manager for DOC. “People often get caught out because they don’t realise how quickly our weather changes or the level of fitness needed.”

Mr Lumley says that although guiding is not currently allowed on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, DOC has indicated that using professional guides is one of several tools that will assist to improve public safety. A section of the track crosses private land and the owners are in the process of preparing a management plan for permitted activities. It’s not yet known whether this will include guiding.

DOC estimates that approximately 65,000 people traverse Mt Tongariro each year.

Free information leaflets on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (still using the old name) are available from the Whakapapa Visitor Centre. An updated brochure will be available before Christmas.

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Source: Department of Conservation

Mt Ruapehu top considered hazardous
Posted: Saturday 29 September 2007 by Chris

Following last night's eruption of Mt Ruapehu climbers, skiers and sightseers are being warned not to venture to the top of the volcano.

This morning, staff from the Department of Conservation (DOC) and GNS Science inspected the size and extent of the eruption during an early morning flight before briefing staff involved in last night’s event and alpine rescue of a climber injured by the eruption.

Dr Harry Keys, DOC, commented that the two most significant hazards were flying rocks and lahars. The lahar that flowed down the Whakapapaiti Valley beside the Far West T bar was smaller than the one seen during the 1995 eruption while a small lahar flowed into the Whangaehu River, scene of the lahar on 18 March this year.

GNS Science volcanologist Brad Scott said, “The eruption was a ‘blue sky’ event occurring with virtually no warning. Previous records show that blue sky eruptions on Mt Ruapehu may be a single event or, as happened in 1975, involve two or three eruptions each getting less in strength than the one before.”

Therefore, Department of Conservation, GNS Science, NZ Police and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts staff agree that for the next five days the upper mountain should be treated as an unusually hazardous area. GNS Science will continue to closely monitor the volcano and report back any significant change, until any immediate likelihood of another eruption is past.

The Department of Conservation is strongly recommending that no-one venture beyond the upper boundaries of the Whakapapa or Turoa ski fields

At 8.23pm last night Mt Ruapehu erupted for seven minutes, sending a plume to an estimated 5000 metres and two lahars (volcanic mudflows) down the slopes of the mountain. The eruption, described as a blue sky eruption, came without warning.

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Source: Department of Conservation

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