The mak­ing of one of NZ’s Great Walks

Taranaki Daily News - - Front Page - MIKE WAT­SON

‘‘We have been in­formed that the pro­posed route met the con­di­tions re­quired to be el­i­gi­ble to be­come a Great Walk.’’

John Hay­lock

A multi-day walk on Mt Taranaki could join Mil­ford, Route­burn and Hea­phy tracks on the list of in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned Great Walks within New Zealand’s na­tional parks.

A pro­posal from eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment agency Ven­ture Taranaki (VT) for a three to four day walk­ing route in Eg­mont Na­tional Park, at a cost of $7.1 mil­lion, has been in­cluded on a short­list to choose two new Great Walks.

The Mt Taranaki pro­posal was among 30 sug­gested routes - 20 in the North Is­land and 10 in the South Is­land - sub­mit­ted to a seven per­son in­de­pen­dent panel, rep­re­sent­ing Fed­er­ated Moun­tain Clubs, New Zealand Re­cre­ation As­so­ci­a­tion, New Zealand Ma¯ori Tourism, Tourism New Zealand, Air New Zealand, Tourism In­dus­try Aotearoa, and the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion to con­sider in De­cem­ber.

Other pro­pos­als in­clude Tarawera Trail in Ro­torua, St James Walk­way in North Can­ter­bury, Queen Char­lotte Track in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds, Green­stone/Caples in Otago, Tararua Ranges in Welling­ton and Old Ghost Road on the South Is­land’s West Coast.

A fi­nal de­ci­sion would be made in June af­ter the panel met with Min­is­ter of Con­ser­va­tion, Eu­ge­nie Sage and iwi.

The ad­di­tion of two more Great Walks is a re­sult of a $178m pack­age an­nounced by the pre­vi­ous Na­tional gov­ern­ment in May, to fund tourism in­fra­struc­ture.

In­cluded in the fund­ing was $3.4m to up­grade the Pouakai Cross­ing on Mt Taranaki.

Cur­rently there are nine Great Walks - six in the South Is­land, and three in the North Is­land - with a 10th route, Pa­paroa, be­ing de­vel­oped on the West Coast.

The two new routes would bring the to­tal num­ber of Great Walks to 12.

The VT sub­mis­sion pro­posed a route from Daw­son Falls to North Eg­mont and across the Pouakai Cross­ing to the top of Man­gorei Rd, in­no­va­tion and strate­gic projects gen­eral man­ager John Hay­lock said.

It could be ex­tended fur­ther to­wards Pukeiti to fin­ish at Oakura on the coast, if a planned 12 kilo­me­tre trail goes ahead.

‘‘We have been in­formed that the pro­posed route met the con­di­tions re­quired to be el­i­gi­ble to be­come a Great Walk,’’ Hay­lock said.

Ven­ture Taranaki’s sub­mis­sion was driven by Ta­puae Roa, or Taranaki Re­gional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy, which high­lighted the Taranaki Cross­ing as a po­ten­tial world class tourism ex­pe­ri­ence, and built on the mo­men­tum al­ready es­tab­lished around the Pouakai Cross­ing, he said. Ex­pe­ri­enced moun­taineer, Ian McAlpine and Mt Taranaki moun­tain guide Rob Needs both sup­ported the pro­posal.

‘‘It would be an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence for both lo­cal peo­ple and vis­i­tors, and for Eg­mont Na­tional Park,’’ McAlpine said.

Needs said a Great Walk in the na­tional park would be a huge ben­e­fit to the lo­cal econ­omy.

The pro­posed route on Mt Taranaki needed to meet six cri­te­ria out­lined by the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (DOC) to be con­sid­ered as a Great Walk.

The cri­te­ria in­cluded a rel­a­tively easy three to five day walk, up to four to six hours a day for in­ex­pe­ri­enced tram­pers, overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion, a spec­tac­u­lar range of scenery and bio­di­ver­sity de­scribed by DOC as ‘‘the best of the best’’, and the op­por­tu­nity to learn more about Ma¯ ori cul­ture.

The cost to de­velop and main­tain the track must also be af­ford­able.

DOC tourism, re­cre­ation and her­itage di­rec­tor Gavin Walker said ma­jor walk­ing tracks were be­com­ing crowded, with some at up to 90 per cent ca­pac­ity, as tourism num­bers and the do­mes­tic pop­u­la­tion grew.

Around 53 per cent of Great Walk vis­i­tors were New Zealan­ders.

DOC wanted to ex­pand the track net­work on pub­lic con­ser­va­tion land and show­case other, lesser known, parts of the coun­try, Walker said.

It also wanted to give walk­ing op­tions to New Zealan­ders which were ‘‘closer to home’’ and ac­ces­si­ble at off peak times of the year, he said.

The Great Walks of New Zealand: Mil­ford Track, Hea­phy Track, Route­burn Track, Rakuria Track, Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Ke­pler Track, Lake Waikare­moana, Ton­gariro North­ern Cir­cuit, Whanganui Jour­ney.

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