The opening of the 2022-23 Great Walks booking season next week heralds 30 years of epic adventures in our backyard throughout the country, Minister of Conservation, Kiri Allan said today.
Speaking from the Tongariro Northern Circuit, the Minister acknowledged the importance of the Great Walks for conservation, recreation and tourism in New Zealand.
“The outdoors and nature are a core part of our identity as New Zealanders and the origins of these walks are testament to this,” she said.
“Over the years I have spent many, many hours tramping and overnighting on these walks. Doing so has enabled me to take time to just be and to discover and connect with the magnificence that is our backyard.”
She said Great Walks were New Zealand’s most popular multi-day hikes, providing unparalleled access to some of the country’s most incredible natural landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage.
“These immersive nature experiences have become a popular drawcard for both domestic and international visitors, supporting nearby communities. With travel restrictions in place, we saw a 75 per cent increase in New Zealanders getting out on the Great Walks over summer 2020/21. This coming season we look forward to welcoming overseas visitors on these walks once again.”
“You don’t have to undertake a multi-day tramp to enjoy this country’s remarkable landscapes and heritage. Take a stroll through history, camp by the ocean, explore an island – find your own way into nature,” Ms Allan said.
The Great Walks were created in 1992, to manage iconic tracks that were becoming overwhelmed with walkers camping anywhere near the track. Protections put in place on Great Walks include limiting numbers through a booking service for a set amount of hut and campsite spaces, limits on concessionaire activities and the introduction of by-laws that require people to stay in huts and designated campsites.
Efforts were also increased to protect and restore the biodiversity along these walks in partnership with mana whenua – iwi, hapū and whānau, community groups and businesses – including a now 10-year partnership with Air New Zealand which invests in six large Great Walks biodiversity projects.
“Through these conservation efforts we’ve seen huge gains such as takahē restored to the Heaphy Track and 43,000 hectares of sustained predator control alongside six of the walks,” Minister Allan said.
She reminded people keen to secure a spot on the network in the upcoming season to prepare in advance of bookings opening.
“It pays to do your homework and find out which Great Walk is most suitable for you and your group before you book. It’s also important to know what fitness, skills and equipment are required, expected track and weather conditions, and how to limit your impact on the environment.”
“There are many different ways to experience a Great Walk. You can hike, run, bike, or paddle; camp or stay in a hut; do the whole thing or just a part of it. Whichever you choose, it’s an experience you’ll never forget.”