The Great Walks season gets underway this month and the Department of Conservation’s tips for those making trips include being well prepared to keep safe and to help care for the beautiful natural areas they will experience.
The Great Walks open on varying dates in October for the peak summer season that runs until the end of April. On December 1, New Zealand’s new 10th Great Walk, the Paparoa Track, will open for walking and mountain biking.
"People can enjoy memorable journeys through spectacular landscapes on the Great Walks but safety needs to be an essential consideration," says DOC heritage and visitor director Steve Taylor.
"Those planning trips should check the latest weather and safety information, pack the right gear with extra layers and plenty of food and water, and let others know where they are going and when they expect to return.
"We also ask people to help protect the land, water and wildlife in the natural areas they visit – give wildlife space, never feed the birds, and take litter away with them or put it in a bin."
DOC is continuing to trial differential pricing during the peak season on four Great Walks – the Milford, Kepler, Routeburn and Abel Tasman Coast tracks. Under the trial, hut and campsite fees are approximately double for international visitors.
The fees are the same for everyone on the other Great Walks.
This is the second year of the trial to evaluate the use of differential pricing as a visitor management tool on the Great Walks. The trial forms part of DOC's ongoing work to set and maintain a fair pricing system for New Zealanders, recover a greater share of costs and ensure that the fees reflect the true value of these world-class experiences.
Visitors paying the New Zealand rate on the four trial tracks will need to carry proof of ‘ordinary residency’ to show rangers and visitor centre staff who will check that visitors are eligible for that rate.
To date, more than 128,500 hut and campsite bed nights are booked on all 10 Great Walks during the peak season, but spaces are still available on most walks for those wanting to experience these journeys through awe-inspiring environments.