Breaks in famous trail threaten NZ reputation
High-paying tourists are forced to walk highway shoulders and travel in locals’ dinghies,
Walkers and landowners along our fastest-growing international tourist attraction, the 3000km Te Araroa Trail, fear New Zealand is jeopardising its reputation by relying on locals’ goodwill to keep it running.
Jack and Jayne Broome of Reotahi Bay have taken in a handful of trampers over the past few years and say they’re not the only ones who do this. Their last rescue was a young Frenchman who wanted to get across Whangarei Harbour to Marsden Point. There’s no ferry these days; trampers have to rely on the goodwill of local boaties, many of whom work at the oil refinery.
Hundreds of thousands of people walk parts of the trail every year. This summer, the number walking the full length will top 1000 for the first time.
Clare Prosser, a Briton currently walking the trail with her partner Liz, had a similar experience crossing the harbour. They paid a man named Pete $10 each to cross, and she marvels at the ad hoc nature of much of the Te Araroa Trail.
He gave the impression he was used to ferrying stranded trampers, says Prosser.
Te Araroa Trust chief executive Mark Weatherall says they’re in talks with Whangarei District Council to get trampers across more efficiently.
Prosser noted other irregularities in the trail, including the occasional closed section across farmland or through forest. Occasionally the signs were nothing more than the words ‘‘track closed’’ scrawled on paper.
Prosser thought these might be because farmers were getting fed up with the foot traffic.
Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard agrees: Tourists might leave gates open, or leave toilet paper across paddocks. But the closures could just as likely be due to lambing, or halting the spread of Mycoplasma bovis.
Prosser acknowledges these reasons, but also says she felt unsafe with the alternative: hiking along often busy highways, something they hadn’t expected to do.
‘‘It does seem amazing that such a huge tourist attraction is essentially run on a shoestring and the goodwill of many.’’
Clare Prosser, left, is walking the Te Araroa trail with her partner, Liz Noakes.