More Kiwis on Great Walks after price hike for foreigners

The Department of Conservation Routeburn shelter, a winner in the public architecture category,...
The Department of Conservation Routeburn shelter. Photo: Doc
A hike in fees for international tourists wanting to traverse the country's most popular walking tracks has been hailed a success by the Department of Conservation.

The trial had led to more New Zealand residents accessing the tracks and had brought in more cash, Doc said.

It earlier increased the cost of sleeping huts for international visitors on the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn tracks as well as the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk.

In a seven-month trial from last October to April, tourists have been charged double what Kiwi walkers pay — ranging from $140 per night on the popular Milford track, to $75 on the Abel Tasman.

The fee hike had led to 30% more Kiwi residents accessing these four Great Walks than a year earlier and brought in an extra $2.4 million in revenue, Doc pricing and economics director Laura White said.

"The trial has been successful, with more New Zealanders accessing these walks, bringing in more revenue and providing a significant amount of information," White said.

The trial was initially brought in with the aim of easing the strain New Zealand's wilderness sites were feeling from the record numbers of visitors descending on them.

The Milford Track. Photo: Getty Images
The Milford Track. Photo: Getty Images
Visitors numbers to public conservation lands in the year ending March 2018 had earlier hit a new record as 1.75m people - or 52% of all international tourists - visited a national park.

This was up 5% on the previous year with tourists making up about 60% of all people using the Great Walks.

However, during the recent trial period the number of Kiwis hiking the Great Walks jumped to 52%, up from 39% in the year ending March 2018.

The number of Kiwi kids hiking the Great Walks also jumped by 13% compared to a year earlier.

As a result, Doc said it will now to continue running the trial unchanged for the 2019/20 season.

Those keen on hiking the Great Walks will have the chance to book huts on trails, starting with the Heaphy and Milford tracks, from June 11.

However, the trial was not considered a success by all.

Just 63% of international visitors rated the four Great Walks used in the higher fee trials as value for money. This was down from 73% in 2018.

Away from the Great Walks, Doc is planning to raise prices at its other parks from July 1 this year.

This includes a $2 increase per night for adults staying at Doc's serviced (from $18 to $20) and scenic (from $13 to $15) campsites.

Children's prices (half the adult rate) will increase by $1 per night.

Standard ($8) and Basic (free) campgrounds and all hut prices remain unchanged.

Great Walks with higher prices for international tourists

Milford Track

International visitors, including children pay $140 per night. Kiwi residents pay $70 per night.

Kepler and Routeburn

International visitors pay $130 per night. Kiwis pay $65.

Abel Tasman Coastal Walk

International visitors pay $75 per night. Kiwis pay $38

New Zealanders under 18 can tackle the walks free of charge.

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