The Queen Charlotte Track chasing great
Ship Cove, the start of the Queen Charlotte Track, is a spiritual and reverent place that every New Zealander should visit and appreciate.
That’s the opinion of Juliet Gibbons, deputy co-chair of Queen Charlotte Track Inc, the voluntary marketing group behind the track’s current bid to become one of New Zealand’s newest Great Walks.
“Meretoto/Ship Cove is a site of both national and international significance where the first sustained contact between the New Zealand Maori and the European took place,” she says.
It was the epicentre of English navigator Captain James Cook’s explorations in the South Pacific – a snug cove in the outer Queen Charlotte Sound where he replenished water supplies, rested his men and repaired his ships on five different visits between 1770 and 1777.
British sovereignty was first proclaimed by Cook over the South Island when the British flag was formally raised on the summit of Motuara Island, opposite Ship Cove, on 31st January 1770.
“In 2020 the eyes of the world will be on Ship Cove as New Zealand commemorates 250 years since the arrival of Captain James Cook, what became the precursor to European settlement in New Zealand,” says Juliet.
“What better way to create a national legacy to this important milestone and the legends of Kupe as our first master mariner, than to name the Queen Charlotte Track as one of New Zealand’s newest Great Walks.”
Department of Conservation (DOC) Director General Lou Sanson announced recently that Te Paki Coastal Track (Te Rerenga Wairua/Cape Reinga, Northland), Hump Ridge Track (Southland) and Queen Charlotte Track (Marlborough Sounds) will be further considered for development, following a process that began when DOC called for proposals for additional Great Walks last year.
Over the coming months, the Department will complete more detailed work
on the three walks. This will include engaging with community groups, iwi, and representatives from the recreation, conservation and tourism sectors, and investigating and comparing the costs of bringing them to Great Walks standard. At least one of these walks will become the new Great Walk.
Queen Charlotte Track Inc. has embarked on the bid to achieve Great Walks status with the full support of the local DOC office, the Marlborough District Council and the Queen Charlotte Track Landowners Co-operative, the latter representing the private landowners who initially developed the track in 1981 for New Zealanders and overseas visitors to enjoy.
“What a wonderful legacy Great Walk status would pro- vide for those landowners and a fitting tribute for decades of voluntary work,” says Juliet.
Moreover, she says, its setting in the geologically unique Marlborough Sounds, a labyrinth of drowned river valleys and sheltered peninsulas, waterways and islands which stretch over 1500km, is unique in the world and deserving of recognition.
“Totaranui/Queen Charlotte Sound also connects two of the world’s great navigators – Kupe and Captain James Cook. This area offers a wonderful opportunity for visitors to engage with Maori culture and understand more about New Zealand’s settlement history.”
The Queen Charlotte Track also reflects its diverse coastal environment with a variety of sea- based wildlife and vegetation along its length and ridgeline views of both the Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound.
From the lush virgin subtropical rainforest at Ship Cove to former pasture
The Queen Charlotte Track chasing Great
where the forest is slowly regenerating, it offers a fascinating insight into New Zealand’s native bush life cycle, Juliet says.
From Ship Cove, the track passes through some of the best examples of virgin native forest in the Marlborough Sounds. These include some magnificent examples of native beech, kamahi and the majestic giants of the forest, the rimu. Other sections of the track traverse land previously farmed which is now returning to native bush.
The start of the track at Ship Cove is accessed by boat only but it has multiple entry and exit points by boat and by road at Anakiwa. This water connection adds diversity to the track experience while offering many options for day walkers as well as through-hikers and caters for all abilities and ages.
Most people start and end their track experience in pretty port of Picton, heart of the Marlborough Sounds and gateway to the South Island.
“Great Walk status would take the Queen Charlotte Track to a new level and make the most of its existing in- frastructure. We think it would be well deserved. For us it is about taking the track from great to great – although in the minds of many, it is already a great walk.”
The group behind the proposal believe it will also help realise the Queen Charlotte Track’s original aim to be an overflow to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. “When some of our most iconic Great Walks are buckling under the strain of demand, it is time to spread the load and we’re good to go on the Queen Charlotte Track,” says Juliet.
Budget 2017 allocated $12.7 million to expand the Great Walks network to help reduce pressure on the current Great Walks, provide economic benefits to regionally-dispersed communities across New Zealand and showcase our country’s full range of outstanding landscapes.
In November 2017, DOC invited communities, iwi and members of the public to put forward existing walks that could be enhanced to become part of the Great Walks network and received over 30 submissions.
Seven walks were shortlisted by a panel, comprising Federated Mountain Clubs, New Zealand Recreation Association, New Zealand Māori Tourism, Tourism New Zealand, Tourism Industry Aotearoa and DOC.
The Department selected the Te Paki, Queen Charlotte and Hump Ridge tracks for further consideration based on the panel’s recommendations.
A decision is expected by the end of this year.
Right: A beautiful spot to stop and chaeck the maps. Photo by Wilderrness Guides
Above: The track offers many viewing areas. Photo by QCT Inc/Richard Briggs Photography Below left: A framed scene between two trees. Photo by QCT Inc/Richard Briggs Photography
Left: These two climb to another fantastic sea view. Photo by QCT Inc/Richard Briggs Photography