The making of one of NZ’s Great Walks
‘‘We have been informed that the proposed route met the conditions required to be eligible to become a Great Walk.’’
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.