Doc braces for Great Walk rush

Department of Conservation Queenstown Regional Visitor Centre supervisor Andrew Evans inside the ...
Department of Conservation Queenstown Regional Visitor Centre supervisor Andrew Evans inside the $250,000 refurbished facility. Photo by James Beech.
The Department of Conservation (Doc) is bracing itself, for heavy demand for Otago's Great Walks, after next season's bookings for the Routeburn, Milford and Kepler tracks opened yesterday.

Doc Queenstown Regional Visitor Centre supervisor Andrew Evans said: "In the first three hours of opening last year, Queenstown visitor staff were busy on the phones and on the counter with inquiries from around New Zealand, Australia and as far away as Israel."

More than 28,000 people tramped the Routeburn, Milford and Kepler tracks in 2008-09, about the same number as 2007-08.

According to Doc's figures for last season, there were 22,315 bed nights, or about 11,000 people, on the Routeburn Track. There were 21,402 bed nights, or about 7134 people, on the Milford Track, and 20,019 bed nights or about 10,000 people on the Kepler Track.

There are 11 Great Walks in the country and the season runs from late October to late April.

A self-booking computer for the Great Walks has been added to the new-look Queenstown visitor centre. The first-floor information hub, on Shotover St, is 95% operational after a $250,000 refurbishment that began last November.

Stand-alone "pods" displaying area maps of national parks and tracks have been installed and a large-scale backlit map displays Otago-Southland. A trip-planning table has been included and a pair of interpretation panels covering Doc's work in the region have been hung, with four more to come.

An exclusive range of T-shirts has been produced in collaboration with Dunedin artist Rawinia Puna for sale.

"The Tiki" and "Flax Beauty" are the designs available, with four more to follow in the summer.

A range of possum-merino blend hats, gloves and socks is also in stock .

Every dollar of profit went into conservation activities, Mr Evans said.

This week, Dunedin carver Malcolm Murchie, of Kai Tahu Kati Mamoe and Ngati Raukawa, started to carve a piece of West Coast totara, which will form the 1.2m high plinth for a piece of pounamu, which will become the centre's touchstone early next year.

 

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