Tourism Minister John Key says having to pay to use an internationally renowned walking track "certainly isn't ideal", but it is better than the track being closed altogether.

Mr Key, responsible for tourism alongside his duties as Prime Minister, said through a spokeswoman that he felt most tourists would not be deterred by a charge imposed to travel Marlborough's picturesque Queen Charlotte Track. But some walkers have warned people will be put off.

Just over 14km of the 71km track crosses private land, with the remainder being on Department of Conservation (DoC) land. The affected landowners are planning a system whereby anyone aged over 15 will have to buy a ticket for between $10 and $15 to access the track. About 24,000 walk or cycle the track every year. A voluntary "tribute" of $5 already in place has not been widely supported.

Neville Sumby, chairman of the landowners' co-operative, said money raised from the access fee would cover the mounting costs of the mess left behind by some track users, and hefty insurance and liability costs, with some funds for track improvements.

"There's always going to be someone who wants to dodge (the fee). But we will be able to do surveys ... and if we find there's not a great compliance we will police it heavily."

Through his spokeswoman, Mr Key said the Queen Charlotte track was a special case because of its private land component.

"The goodwill of these landowners has allowed public access for many years, but DoC acknowledges there are impacts and costs that these landowners have previously carried," Mr Key said.

"A small charge for walking the track is a much preferable alternative to the track being closed to the public totally, and while some people may choose not to pay the fee, it is unlikely to have a major impact on tourism numbers."

DoC Sounds area manager Roy Grose said a priority in discussions with the landowners was ensuring long-term public access to the entire track.

"Their preference is for a track access fee and we respect their rights as landowners to make decisions in relation to use of their land," Mr Grose said.