Department of Conservation has announced that visitor centres will be closed to the public from today and tomorrow will be cancelling all hut and campsite bookings, says DOC director-general Lou Sanson.
This cancellation includes all Great Walks bookings for the rest of the season (up to June 30, 2020).
People affected will receive a full refund. Rangers will be visiting tracks and facilities, alerting people about these changes and checking people are complying.
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," says Lou.
"We are also temporarily closing our visitor centres to the public for the same reason. Although the doors are closed, our staff are only a phone call or email away and can still help people who want information."
DOC is monitoring conservation areas and facilities across New Zealand to ensure public safety and adherence to government guidelines. Non-bookable campsites and remote backcountry huts will be closed if New Zealand reaches Alert Level 3. For the time being they are still available.
Users must ensure they maintain minimum separation requirements and follow all personal hygiene guidance. 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," says Lou.
"While you’re out and about make sure you’re doing your part to keep yourself and others safe. Stay up to date on the latest information, follow guidance on non-essential domestic travel and minimum separation requirements, and take necessary safety and hygiene precautions."