Aoraki/Mt Cook park plan in draft stage

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by Greta Yeoman

Parking fees, camping ground bookings and new huts are just some of the schemes proposed under the draft Aoraki/Mt Cook national park management plan.

The draft plan, which is now open for submissions, is about giving the Department of Conservation (Doc) the ability to implement changes in the park, park operations manager Brent Swanson said.

However, ideas included in the plan were about giving Doc the option of putting them in place, rather than confirming any schemes would definitely occur, he said.

One example of this was a pre-booking scheme for White Horse camping ground and Mueller hut.

While this was still only being presented as an option, the ever-growing number of visitors staying at the site meant this change would likely occur.

This would be particularly important for the White Horse camping ground, due to the large number of campervans and tents that often crowded the site, he said.

Mueller Hut

There were also suggestions in the plan of turning the camp site into a year-round facility, but this would be weather-dependent.

However, Doc was planning on doing more snow-clearing of both the access road and the camp site itself, which is sometimes closed in winter because of to snow, to provide for the growing visitor numbers, even in winter, Mr Swanson said.

Other ideas included charging for parking, as the current national park plan did not allow for parking charges to be implemented.

This meant a lot of visitors were using the park’s tracks and facilities entirely free, he said.

The number of huts in the park was also set to increase, for the first time in years, after several hut closures and removals in the past decade.

One of the huts, the Mid Tasman hut, would be built by the New Zealand Alpine Club in the middle of the Tasman valley by this summer.

It would be located north of Ball hut but south of the Tasman saddle and Kelman huts.

The Doc-owned Hooker hut, which was removed from its location above the moraine wall on the west side of the Hooker valley in 2015, due to concerns over unstable territory, would be reinstalled by next summer, Mr Swanson said.

The department had narrowed down the options for its relocation to two sites, which would be decided upon at a later date.

There had also been “some pretty cool stuff” done around tranquillity levels in the park, as part of the draft plan, Mr Swanson said.

This meant things like helicopter noise and traffic had been measured, indicating that tranquillity levels were predicted to be lower in the Tasman valley, where plenty of sightseeing aircraft flew over and most walks were only a short distance from the car park.

Mountain history . . . Adventurers in the Aoraki/Mt Cook national park include the late Sir Edmund Hillary, commemorated in a statue in Mt Cook village. The park’s ever-increasing popularity with tourists has been addressed in a new draft management plan. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

However, the tranquillity levels in the Hooker valley, which is accessible by a 3-hour return track, would be higher, he said.

Mr Swanson was keen for park users, both locals and further afield, to submit their thoughts on the draft plan.

“We really encourage people to look at the plan and make submissions.”

Submissions on the draft Aoraki/Mt Cook national park management plan will close on November 9.

Visit www.doc.govt.nz for more information.