Breaks in fa­mous trail threaten NZ rep­u­ta­tion

High-pay­ing tourists are forced to walk high­way shoul­ders and travel in lo­cals’ dinghies,

Sunday Star-Times - - Front Page - re­port An­dre Chumko and Amanda Sax­ton.

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.

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