22 Mar 2020

Covid-19: DOC to cancel bookings and close visitor centres

7:29 pm on 22 March 2020

The Department of Conservation is closing its visitor centres to the public from today, and from tomorrow will cancel all hut and campsite bookings, says director-general Lou Sanson.

Moonlight Tops Hut on the new Paparoa track

DOC huts like the Moonlight Tops Hut on the Paparoa track are closing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: DoC

He said DOC is taking the action to protect staff, visitors and tourists and to comply with the latest government moves, announced yesterday by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The cancellation includes all Great Walks bookings for the rest of the season (up to 30 June 2020). People will receive a full refund.

Rangers will visit tracks and facilities, alerting people about the changes and checking people are complying.

DoC director-general, Lou Sanson, Department of Conservation.

DoC director-general Lou Sanson. Photo: RNZ/Ian Telfer

The government has announced New Zealand is now at alert level 2 for Covid-19. This means the disease is contained but the risks of community transmission are growing. The Ministry of Health has provided measures for New Zealand to follow in response to the alert level.

"Social distancing is key to preventing the community spread of Covid-19. Given the risk of potential community transmission, we have decided to cancel all accommodation bookings, including Great Walks," Sanson said in a statement.

"We are also temporarily closing our visitor centres to the public for the same reason."

He said staff would still be able to assist people through phone calls or emails.

Non-bookable campsites and remote backcountry huts are still available but will be closed if the country moves to alert level 3.

DOC accommodation cannot be used for self-isolation.

"Spending time in nature is great for our mental and physical wellbeing, and we're still encouraging people to get out there - you just have to follow the latest advice.

"We recommend finding your own space outside with walks and activities that take less than a day, and avoiding activities that could leave you reliant on hut use," Sanson said.

More information including track updates, closures and safety advice is available on DOC's website.