Thousands flock to tracks

Boots dry out at a Routeburn Track hut after a hard day's tramping. Photos from ODT files.
Boots dry out at a Routeburn Track hut after a hard day's tramping. Photos from ODT files.
Trampers climb the Diamond Lake track near Wanaka.
Trampers climb the Diamond Lake track near Wanaka.

Holidaymakers are taking advantage of the dry and warm weather and flocking to Southern walking tracks.

The Wanaka region was proving popular, with numbers on some tracks up by more than 65% in December, compared with the corresponding month in 2010, Department of Conservation (Doc) Wanaka area manager Paul Hellebrekers said.

The number of people recorded using the West Matukituki track by an electronic track counter rose 68.6% from 2631 in December 2010 to 4435 in December 2011, and on the track to Rob Roy Glacier in the same month, numbers rose by 51.2% from 2074 to 3136, Mr Hellebrekers said.

The numbers on the Rob Roy track were the highest in at least five years.

Mr Hellebrekers said these numbers were indicative of track use around the Wanaka region and could largely be attributed to the warm and dry weather.

Other busy Doc tracks in the area included the Mt Iron track, the Wanaka Outlet walking track, the Upper Clutha River track and Diamond Lake.

"We have had about three weeks of pretty good weather in this neck of the woods, which has made it perfect for people to get out and about and walk the tracks and bike some of the cycleways," Mr Hellebrekers said.

Increased use of Doc facilities had not resulted in overcrowding and no incidents of visitor conflict had been reported to staff so far this season, he said.

Doc staff had been very happy with the "positive atmosphere" on the tracks and enjoyed seeing people using the facilities they had "spent time and energy building and maintaining".

The Department of Conservation's Te Anau-based programme manager Christine Officer said, as usual, track numbers on the three Great Walks in Fiordland, the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler, were close to fully booked over the December and January holiday period.

However, anecdotally, Doc staff had noticed more people were visiting the area and tramping other back country walks because of the fine weather, she said.

Doc was pleased with overall numbers doing the Great Walks this season. They had stayed similar to last season, after Doc had forecast a 5% drop in numbers, because of the impact global economic conditions and the Christchurch earthquake had on tourist numbers.

"In our eyes [numbers staying steady] is quite a positive thing, considering the conditions for tourism around the country at the moment," she said.

Doc Queenstown Visitor Centre manager Clare Manners said after a slow October and November the numbers of people using tracks in the area were "pretty much the same" in December 2011 compared with December 2010.

Between 400 and 500 people had tramped the Greenstone and Caples tracks in December 2011, which was about 5% or 6% down on the previous December. About 550 had walked the Reece-Dart track, which was up on last year's figures when closer to 400 went on the track, Ms Manners said.

The Queenstown Doc office was yet to compile track figures for day walks in the previous year, she said.



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