Hut bedbug problem ‘exaggerated’

Stewart Island's bedbug problem is being "exaggerated" and businesses are struggling with the fallout, a tourism operator says.

Last year, the Department of Conservation (Doc) said the bugs had reached infestation levels at the North Arm Hut and since then, rangers had been checking and waging an active campaign against the pests.

Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience owner Furhana Ahmad said some operators were facing cancellations because of such publicity.

However, she believed the situation was not as bad as it had been painted.

She had been regularly checking with Doc and it had told her that since the beginning of this year only three bedbugs had been found at the hut — a dead one on January 1 and two dead ones on January 6 and 9.

"The whole situation was put completely out of proportion.

"The word ‘infestation’ has connotations that [the hut] is crawling with bedbugs and it is not. People are freaking out ... We cannot afford visitors cancelling just because we have a couple of bedbugs at the place and that is what is happening at the moment — I think it is an over-exaggeration of the situation."

Last month, Doc offered refunds to trampers due to the bedbug situation but yesterday Doc Rakiura acting operations manager Dale Chittenden said very few refunds had been issued and the situation was "under control".

"Very few people are cancelling. Appreciative of the heads-up, those with concerns are opting to communicate with Doc and bring a tent to stay in as an extra precaution".

Bedbugs were very difficult to eradicate, but Doc was carrying out constant monitoring, Mr Chittenden said.

"We do know there are still bedbugs being found on the island, and we will continue to do everything we can to eliminate them.

"Between Doc, other accommodation providers and individual travellers all doing their bit, we can keep bed bugs under control and hopefully extinguish them for good.”


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