Following more tourist guests complaints and accounts of awful experiences last week the following will be of interest.
Their complaints were that they were dropped off by shuttle bus operators when the weather was clearly unsuitable and turned sour. This was the usual stuff – high winds made it very tricky and they took over 10 hours to reach their car, inadequate clothing and footwear for the conditions, they had no idea and were never warned of the physical demands, etc.)
Last week Police and LandSAR(Search & Rescue) rescued six people who underestimated the physical challenges of the crossing.
SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed makes the rules and rules the inmates at TRM) has a simple plan to filter out keen trampers who do not appear to be fit enough to complete the crossing. She tells them they have to qualify first. They have to walk from TRM up the Tongariro River Trail, cross over at the Koura Street swing-bridge, then head north over the hill to return via the SH1 road bridge in less than one hour. Otherwise they do not qualify… It works!
i.e. A typical example last week was a guest and her mother who only wanted to walk the top section past the Red Crater and wanted us to transport them up there?.
Instead SWMBO sent them to Taranaki Falls (2 hours loop track from the Chateau – pics above) and then a ride up the chairlift instead.
They had a wonderful time.
So a repeat of the following prepared last October by Dave Bamford is timely…
Finally the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is being managed
Finally the Department of Conservation and Tuwharetoa, guardians of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, have introduced proactive management for this world-famous, World Heritage day walk. Starting from Labour Weekend, visitors are now being managed with the aim of reducing social, environmental and cultural impacts on the mountain. Hopefully the days of jamming more than 2,000 walkers on the track in a single day are over. Hopefully there will also be a significant reduction in crowding at key track locations, in toilet waste and in offensive cultural behaviour. (See DOC media release:www.doc.govt.nz/news/media-releases/2017/doc-takes-action-to-improve-enjoyment-of-the-tongariro-alpine-crossing)
The main management change has been the introduction of a user pay “Park and Ride” transport system for Tongariro Alpine Crossing walkers. This involves the provision of public shuttle services from carparks in the surrounding villages and towns; Ohakune, National Park, Whakapapa, Turangi and Taupo. The shuttles take walkers to the track entrance at Mangatepopo Valley. Limited spaces at the road end car park are available for people visiting the Mangatepopo Valley for up to four hours, for exploring short walks. The Mangatepopo road entrance will be controlled and monitored for the entire summer season, through to 30 April 2018.
From first-hand accounts the introduction of the new system at Labour Weekend went smoothly. There were 1,500 track visitors, mainly from overseas, and the approach worked. As well, concern expressed by some New Zealanders regarding potential limitations on New Zealanders’ freedom of access to the National Park was not justified. Access is still available for all.
Looking at the big picture what has happened – and it’s possibly a decade overdue – is that we are now prioritising ahead of visitor demands the health and integrity of this part of Tongariro National Park. The Crossing has a long history of use. However over the last 50 years there has been considerable change in the track quality, the type and volume of visitors, and the social and environmental impacts of increased use. In the mid-1970s the crossing was a rutted, deeply eroded pumice track that had fewer than 1,000 visitors in an entire year. It was very much a tramper’s adventure. By the 1990s the track had become a popular tourist attraction with more than 10,000 walkers in 1992/3 enjoying a well-managed and upgraded track. In 2012/13 there were more than 63,000 walkers. This number has more than doubled in just the last five years to over 130,000 walkers last season. Managing this number of walkers and their impacts is essential.
The northern approaches to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with, to the left, Te Maari crater steaming, Mt Tongariro in the centre and Mt Ngauruhoe on the far right
In addition to the “Park and Ride” transport system the management approach for this coming summer includes increased ranger presence and more toilet facilities. These improvements should both benefit the environment and enhance visitor enjoyment of what should be a great National Park experience.
With the continued growth in tourism to and in New Zealand, especially to our National Parks, there is a need to be proactive about new management approaches to protect our natural and cultural assets. Current National Park legislation allows for freedom of access however I believe this should not be at the expense of the environment and our social and cultural values. Managing visitor use in pressure areas is crucial.
Popular locations such as Taranaki/Mt Egmont’s summit climb; Aoraki/Mount Cook’s Hooker Valley; Mt Aspiring’s Rob Roy Glacier walk; Westland’s Franz Josef Glacier walk and aerial landings; and Fiordland’s Piopiotahi/Milford Sound and Eglington Valley, to name a few, are all suffering every tourist season from ever-increasing visitor pressure. These areas urgently need enhanced management and new approaches. These can include measures such as providing public shuttle transport from nearby villages, controls and limits on mechanised transport such as aircraft snow landings. Some of these improved management strategies will require more funding for DOC. The political commitment to introducing a taonga/green border tax is timely and should ideally be introduced within the new government’s first term.
Also, we should not be scared to apply visitor service and facility fees at the most popular national park sites, such as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Piopiotahi/Milford Sound, where logistically practical.
The improved management example that DOC and iwi have established at the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is timely and great. They should be congratulated. Let’s look at considering sustainable approaches elsewhere in New Zealand at our special, protected area, pressure points.
Some urgent improvements were essential – see TRM report and panic at this time last year below:
Continuing the tourist industry issues from TRM Daily Report yesterday:
DGLT (Destination Great Lake Taupo) Strategy Document 2016:
Great Lake Taupö is a thriving tourism destination where people can experience one of the world’s most unique and picturesque areas. Close to 1.3 million visitors help drive Great Lake Taupö’s economic success by directly spending half a billion dollars in the region every year. In addition to this, the flow on impact of tourism spend is estimated to be another half a billion dollars.
The Great Lake Taupö region has a permanent population of 35,600. When this is considered alongside the magnitude of our visitor numbers, it is clear that tourism is a driving force in our economy. Tourism currently provides 35% of jobs in our workforce and 25% of our GDP, but there is still significant potential to grow tourism further. The industry now needs to debate whether future growth will occur incrementally, whether there is a desire for a more radical transformation, and how we want growth to occur.
OK? Understood. Tourism is very important in a cute little tourist town. Economically it is everything we rely on so we need to protect it. But look what is happening at one of our most popular key iconic tourist spots…
Thank you to Murray Wilson for following images.
Following from facebook illustrate the problems at the Southern Mangatepopo end where most people start and where shuttle buses do their drop off.
Most park at the finish and get a shuttle to the start.
So if you imagine the following photos indicate a shambles, we regret it is far worse at the finish.
On the mid-week day these images were taken – 9 am on Thursday 5 January – the security team estimated over 5000 walkers with over 300 cars parked at both the start and finish along the road sides (i.e. excludes those in car parks).
It is crazy to allow it this situation to continue any longer. We daren’t mention the increasing environmental degradation on the crossing – it is too sad.
It may be acceptable for Jafas who are used to parking and traffic jams (?) but we cannot afford to mislead and upset so many other tourists.
Tourists had no idea from any of the booking offices about the shambles with crowding and waiting and queues and access and parking issues.
Something really has to be done by the Council and/or ‘authorities’ to control the numbers and send the overflow to any of the many other walking tracks around the central plateau. If tourism is our biggest industry then we cannot afford to continue to operate a shambles like this on NZ’s most popular one day walk.
DOC – who have their signs all over the track so must be responsible for the management of the track (?) must do something to manage the numbers better – not reduce them but provide more infrastructure!
TRM and other motels persevered all last summer season fielding continuous complaints but nothing has changed. TRM was asked for a solution? TRM are not qualified to comment as the Tongariro Crossing is a major earner for all local tourist accommodation suppliers.
Understandably SWMBO (Manager of everything at TRM) would not want to do anything to affect Her 100% occupancy since Christmas.
Instead we asked for opinion from a major tourist sporting shop owner with more experience than us in tourism matters. He says the only realistic solution is to ban cars on the access roads and restrict them for shuttle bus use only, operating a pick-up and drop-off from the huge Turangi CBD car parks. They could easily cope with the volumes of traffic. That seems a sensible compromise to avoid further traffic jams. Watch this space…
What do you think?