Visitor and revenue growth at Mt Cook
Hot, dry weather has increased visitor numbers over the summer season at Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, resulting in a 45 per cent increase in revenue, a park manager says.
Department of Conservation (DOC) Aoraki/Mt Cook operations manager Brent Swanson said it had been a ‘‘very busy’’ summer season compared with the previous year.
Rising visitor numbers had resulted in a 45 per cent in increase in revenue for the campsite and visitor centre, he said.
‘‘Yeah, it has been [busy]. Rev- enue over the campsite and visitor centre is up by 45 per cent compared to this time last year.
‘‘That’s just an indication itself [of how busy it has been].’’
There were 300 people per night staying at the campground and 1200 people had been going through the visitor centre each day since November, he said.
Swanson preferred not to release the revenue amount to Stuff but said he expected the large turnover to ‘‘taper off as we get out of the school holidays and into late summer’’.
While the total number of visitors for the year was yet to be calculated, Swanson said he had ‘‘definitely’’ noticed an increase in visitors this summer, largely due to the ‘‘good hot and dry weather’’.
The number of visitors making their way to the national park has been growing each year.
More than 800,000 people already visit annually, and that number was soon expected to break through the 1 million barrier.
‘‘We have had more people per day this year than this time last year through the park,’’ he said. ‘‘It is a great thing. ‘‘That’s the whole point of the national park, for people to come and experience the beauty of it.’’
To cope with the increase, there were 32 staff members at Mt Cook over summer, compared with the year-round 14 staff.
Since November there had been 12 rescues by DOC staff and three beacon activations, the majority of which were due to climbers who had fallen and injured themselves, he said.
Swanson said there had not been as many rescues this summer due to good weather.
Overall ‘‘this summer has been very busy, I believe due to an increase in general interest in the park from Kiwis and tourists, the great short walks promotion and the great weather’’, he said.
In September, then Tourism Minister Paula Bennett and the Conservation Minister at the time, Maggie Barry, announced the Great Short and Great Day Walks, an extension of the Great Walks brand.
Tasman Glacier View, Mt Cook became a Great Short Walk. Such walks take 30 minutes to three hours to complete.
The Hooker Valley became a Great Day Walk, which take 4-6 hours to complete.
Previously DOC team leader of search and rescue Jim Young said historically there were between 30 and 40 rescues a year in the park, and about 90 per cent of those happened during summer.
‘‘We’re 24 hours a day so it’s good that we’re so close and live in the village.
‘‘We can respond very, very quickly.’’
The teams worked on a sevenday standby, meaning that from Monday to Sunday, a team of four were required to stay within 15 minutes of the base at all times.
‘‘At the same time, the other four get some days off, and do a bit of hut and track work, relax a bit,’’ he said.
Late last year, Aoraki/Mt Cook DOC ranger/garbologist Eddie Streat said he was given a sixmonth contract in a newly developed role due to the number of visitors to the area.
‘‘Primarily I just do the rubbish pick-ups most days, load up the truck in the morning at [the] Hermitage, pick up their waste,’’ Streat said.
The waste was sorted into large bins at the refuse site, then freighted back to Timaru each week.
Each day there was about 400 kilograms of food waste, and about 400kg of cardboard a week.
Heading into the busier months, there could be up to 800kg of cardboard a week, Streat said at the time.