Great Walks 'important part of people's lives'

Clare Bycroft, 29, who currently lives in Oxford, UK, said she wouldn't be pleased to return home and have to pay for the Great Walks. Photo/Supplied
Clare Bycroft, 29, who currently lives in Oxford, UK, said she wouldn't be pleased to return home and have to pay for the Great Walks. Photo/Supplied

A Kiwi tramping enthusiast says it would be frustrating as a New Zealander to have to pay for a Great Walk.

Experienced tramper Clare Bycroft, 29, who has been on more than 50 overnight walks in New Zealand, said the tracks are a valuable asset for New Zealand and should be funded accordingly.

"I would be pretty annoyed to pay anything just to walk. But then on the other hand I realise when there are lots of people using these places you do need to invest in keeping them clean and not being damaged.

"I certainly think it's not only an important part of the tourism trade but it's an important part of people's lives in New Zealand. It shouldn't just be thought of as a source of revenue, it's a valuable thing in its own right for the citizens of New Zealand."

The Department of Conservation is tasked with the upkeep and maintenance of many of New Zealand's national parks, reserves and walking tracks - including the Great Walks.

DOC director-general Lou Sanson has floated the idea of charging for the Great Walks - $40 for New Zealanders, and $100 for tourists - to cover increasing costs since their popularity has "exploded".

Ms Bycroft said administering fees could be difficult, but said there could be some sort of tourism levy to fund a shortfall in DOC funding.

"[The walks are] getting more popular, but if they are so popular, there's more money coming through [tourism], so why not make it more expensive for tourists?"

Users already pay between $22 and $54 per night to stay in the huts on the Great Walks, but aren't charged for the actual walk.

Most of the nine Great Walks - ranging from Lake Waikaremoana east of Taupo in the north to the Rakiura Track on Stewart Island in the south - take between 2-4 days to complete.

Ms Bycroft said the price tag associated with upkeep and maintenance of the walks should be accepted as a worthwhile cost.

"That's something the Government has to decide how far they're going to go with that. I love walks, and I think a lot of New Zealanders really value them."

- NZ Herald

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