Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Routeburn Track officially reopens

The Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's most historic tracks and the alpine pathway between the Fiordland and Whakatipu communities, has officially reopened end to end.

DOC operations director southern South Island Aaron Fleming says visitors booked on the popular Great Walk will be able to start their hike at either the Te Anau or Glenorchy end of the track and walk to the other end for the first time since early February. 

"The reopening of the Routeburn Track is another crucial milestone in the flood recovery work taking place in the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks, after the Milford Track was reopened last week.

"This announcement celebrates the huge amount of work done to open these iconic tracks, which now means that all three Great Walks in Fiordland are open and ready for visitors. Many DOC staff and contractors have worked hard to get the track to a point where we can now safely reopen it end to end."

It is fantastic to have the full suite of southern Great Walks open to support their communities once more, Aaron says

"The Fiordland and the Whakatipu communities have had a difficult year. Having these tracks reopened not only encourages people to connect with nature, but encourages visitors back into this incredible part of the country."

The Routeburn Track spans across two National Parks – Mt Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park with the border and highest point being the Harris Saddle.

It was among the 78 tracks damaged in the February 2020 floods.

A three-day storm saw one tenth of the region's average annual rainfall dump on northern Fiordland between 4–6 February. This sparked a major search and rescue operation, damaged 440 km of tracks and wiped out key infrastructure including parts of the Milford Road.

Lake Howden Hut on the Fiordland section of the Routeburn Track was hit by a landslide in the middle of the night on the 4 November.

The hut was so badly damaged that it was deemed unsafe to repair and was closed immediately. It has since been demolished and removed from the park. The site was remediated and the track realigned.  

"We'll work with our partners and stakeholders to develop the long-term plan for the Lake Howden site," Aaron says.

The Routeburn Track has a very rich history and is an important feature of Te Wāhipounamu РSouth West New Zealand World Heritage Area.

The Routeburn Track is popular as the easy access (by vehicle) to either end means walkers can start at one end and then either catch a transport shuttle or have their vehicle moved by one of the car relocation companies to the other end.

$13.7 million was announced in Budget 2020 to go towards repairing vital conservation and visitor infrastructure destroyed in the February flood.

Bookings on the track are in high demand with the holiday period almost at capacity. Walkers should check the DOC website for details on what dates are still available.

All visitors are asked to follow all signs and instructions while on the track.

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