A Far North track has missed out on becoming New Zealand's 11th Great Walk — but work to add it to the list of the country's premiere multi-day tramps will continue, the Department of Conservation says.
In 2017 DOC opened up nominations for a new Great Walk, eventually whittling the suggestions down to Hump Ridge Track in Southland, Queen Charlotte Track in Marlborough, and Te Paki Coastal Track, a three to four-day walk around the northern tip of Aotearoa.
On Sunday Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced Hump Ridge had been chosen as New Zealand's next Great Walk.
The Department will now spend about $5 million bringing the track up to Great Walk standards and expanding it from a two-night to a three-night tramp.
Great Walk status will also give Hump Ridge a massive marketing boost with Tuatapere, the main access point, likely to experience a tourism boom.
Sage said, however, work to turn Te Paki Coastal Track into a Great Walk would continue.
The track showcased a ''highly significant'' part of Aotearoa and boasted cultural values and iconic locations arguably surpassing better-known walks around the country.
There is no timeline as yet and the Te Paki experience could only be truly ''great'' if it was founded on a strong and meaningful partnership with iwi, and was part of a wider plan for sustainable tourism development across the Far North, Sage said.
Harry Burkhardt, the chairman of Ngāti Kuri, New Zealand's northernmost iwi, said he supported the concept of a creating a Great Walk but did not believe it was DoC's role to lead it.
The project needed to be led by iwi on the Aupōuri Peninsula to ensure a strong connection to people and place.
''We can tell a deeper story and provide a deeper experience. We are the only ones who can tell the story,'' he said.
Te Paki Coastal Track links Spirits Bay with the Te Paki dunes at the top of Ninety Mile Beach, passing Cape Reinga and Cape Maria van Diemen along the way. Basic campsites are provided but walkers need to bring their own tents and cooking gear.
Track upgrades would be required if it was declared a Great Walk, as well as the construction of trampers' huts spaced about five hours apart.
The other finalist, Queen Charlotte Track, won't be progressed to Great Walk status because of ''insurmountable challenges'' around guaranteeing permanent public access to all sections of the track.
New Zealand currently has nine Great Walks, three in the North Island and six in the South. A 10th, Paparoa Track, is due to open in December.
Hump Ridge, which was created by a community trust as a job-creation project when logging of native forests was halted in the area, is due to open as a Great Walk in late 2022.