11 Jan 2020

Tongariro Alpine Crossing closed this weekend after death on track

12:49 pm on 11 January 2020

A person has died on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the central North Island.

A view from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Photo: Unsplash / Emily Woolerton

Police were notified to the death in the Tongariro National Park shortly after midday today.

A spokeswoman for St John confirmed it receiveda call at 12.09pm and sent a helicopter to the scene.

The Department of Conservation said an elderly gentleman died on the track.

Local iwi Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro and Ngāti Tūwharetoa have acknowledged the death. They have place a rāhui on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing that will last for three days from today until sunrise on Monday 13 January.

A rāhui sets a temporary prohibition around the rāhui area and limits access for that period in order to acknowledge the death and to express sympathy to the whānau of the deceased.

All hikers in the area are asked to use alternative tracks during the rāhui.

Ngāti Hikairo kaumātua Te Ngaehe Wanikau understood the man was on the mountain's Red Crater - the highest point of the crossing at 1886m.

"A 75-year-old man has done a pretty strenuous crossing. The track is 24km and you're walking into an alpine area."

Given the elevation, there was little room for error, Wanikau said.

The Red Crater was the same place the body of Chinese woman was recovered in October last year.

Wanikau said the rāhui was a mark of respect for family and "to allow the tragedy to dissipate".

He acknowledged the search and rescue crews that attended the incident.

A karakia done in conjunction with the rāhui was for all those teams, as well as family and friends of the man, Wanikau said.

"Search and Rescue, they see more tragedies than most other people so we do a karakia to take away some of the heaviness when they go home and we ask the guardians of the land to watch over them."

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