4 May 2017

DOC increases hut, campsite fees for NZ's Great Walks

From Morning Report, 8:20 am on 4 May 2017

New Zealand's nine Great Walks have become increasingly popular, but if you want to stay overnight they've just become more expensive too.

Milford Track Mintaro Hut

Milford Track Mintaro Hut Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The Department of Conservation has increased hut prices on seven of the walks and four of the campsites.

The most expensive are huts on the Milford track which have gone from $54 to $70 a night.

Prices on the Whanganui Journey walk went up last year but it's been five years since the DOC has taken a price review on any of the other tracks.

Bridge to Nowhere - Whanganui Journey | by Department of Conservation

Bridge to Nowhere - Whanganui Journey | by Department of Conservation Photo: Department of Conservation

DOC's Director of Recreation, Tourism and Heritage, Gavin Walker, says the price rises are a result of a "substantial increase' in use.

He says the use of the walks are up 35% on three years ago and 120,000 people a year now enjoy them - 60% of whom are foreign tourists.

"We've taken a really good look at our management of those places and determined that prices need to change so that we can make sure we have the resources in place to keep these places pristine and ensure people have a fantastic time when they're out there."

"We've thought long and hard about those price increases and we've borne New Zealanders in mind when we've been resetting these."

Lake Waikaremoana, Te Urewera National Park.

Lake Waikaremoana, Te Urewera National Park. Photo: Robert Harding

Mr Walker says those under 17 years old can still go on the walks for free.

"We've priced these great walks in a way that kiwi families, in particular, can still get out and enjoy these places."

He says DOC had considered whether international visitors should be charged a different rate to New Zealanders.

But, Mr Walker says, although there is "some real merit" to the idea they decided against the move.

"We just don't have the IT capability and systems in place now to be able to do that successfully."

The price increases will earn the Department of Conservation an extra $880,000 which will go straight back into the management of the walks - which includes the removal of toilet waste.

"Unlike at home where you can press a button and flush it away - all of the waste from these places gets helicoptered or boated out. It's more cleaning, it's more maintenance, it's more work on the tracks to ensure they stay in good condition for an increasing number of people."

Mr Walker says he doesn't expect demand to drop off as a result of the price hikes.

Anybody interested in enjoying the walks must book and pay online ahead of time.