Wairarapa DoC assets shut down

By Kim Fulton editorial@age.co.nz -
1 comment
A bridge on the Barra Track in the Tararua Forest Park has critical work outstanding. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
A bridge on the Barra Track in the Tararua Forest Park has critical work outstanding. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Wairarapa attractions are among hundreds of tracks, huts and structures not up to standard nationwide.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry has released lists of Department of Conservation (DoC) tracks, structures and huts, which have either been closed or are substandard.

Those already closed in the Wairarapa included the reef jetty on the Castlepoint Lighthouse Walk.

A barrier next to an eel bridge at Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre and a ridge track barrier at Putangirua Pinnacles Track were also on a list of structures which failed load capacity assessment at the time the list was compiled.

A bridge at Barra Track on the way to Mitre Flats Hut in Tararua Forest Park was listed as having serious or critical work tasks outstanding.

Wairarapa huts with service standard tasks not to standard included Tarn Ridge Hut in Tararua Forest Park. Those with outstanding inspections included Burn Hut, Totara Flats Hut and Tutuwai Hut, all in Tararua Forest Park.

Green Party conservation spokesman Kevin Hague said the lists showed 1085 DoC structures did not meet service standards, and almost half the tracks were not up to scratch.

In all, 38 structures had serious work tasks outstanding, 85 failed barrier assessments, 168 failed load capacity assessments, and another 85 were closed.

Mr Hague said the numbers were a snapshot of a moving picture, and every region would see local problems on it.

"New Zealanders have to ask themselves, is it acceptable for that proportion of our tracks, and our huts and our structures and our species to not be meeting the standards that have been set for them?

"I suspect the answer is no."

A lot of people had worked over many years to make sure back country tracks and huts were available, he said.

Mr Hague said his biggest concern was when viewing platforms which were overdue for repair went unassessed.

"The reason you have the standard is to ensure that adverse events are extremely unlikely."

In Parliament this week, Ms Barry said about a third of the work on the structures in serious or critical need of work had been caught up in the past month with the rest expected by November, including bridges.

Something as small as a missing brush meant a hut sometimes did not meet its service standards.

Ms Barry said just 13 of the 944 huts DoC managed had some serious work outstanding.

Fifty tracks nationwide had been closed since 2008, often because of unavoidable natural hazards. More than 400 tracks and 1000 extra kilometres had been added to DoC's network over the same period.

Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand president Peter Wilson said DoC would receive about $2 million less this year than last, after this week's Budget.

"For an organisation responsible for so much of our most precious land and species, as well as most of our tramping and mountaineering opportunities, these continual cuts are deeply disappointing".

Instead of steadily increasing DoC's core funding in light of its growing responsibilities and land area, it seemed DoC could now only beg for boosts, he said.

"One-off funding increases are not an excuse for ongoing core funding cuts."

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