A review to improve the experience and manage growing visitor numbers on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is underway.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) has been working closely with Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, and all interested parties to improve the visitor experience with infrastructure upgrades and a longer-term strategy to manage the visitor flows.
DOC said in a media statment released today a review, led by DOC and Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, is underway and will consider the visitor, cultural, and environmental values of the experience as well as recognising the economic contribution and importance of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing at a local and national level.
Visitors to the 20 km Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park Dual World Heritage Area enjoy spectacular terrain and stunning views. On clear days, they can see Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Taranaki in the west, the Kaimanawa Ranges, Lake Taupo and beyond.
Popularity of the Tongariro Crossing has been growing steadily and in 2015 there were 125,000 visitors.
Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro kaumatua Te Ngaehe Wanikau said he was keen to take a long term strategic view.
"Our ancestral connection with this land drives us to look hard at the values of Tongariro and what it means for the region.
"We recognise the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a significant part of the Central North Island tourism industry so we need to give the visitors the best chance to enjoy the great experience. This means managing longer term expectations for the benefit of everyone involved", he said.
DOC Operations Manager for Tongariro, Bhrent Guy, said visitors to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing continued to enjoy themselves even on the busiest of days.
"The walk is largely weather dependent and visitor numbers funnel into the fine days after a bout of bad weather. We need to ensure that visitors have a quality experience by managing the flow of people onto the track on those busy days."
"Most visitors arrive to start the walk between 7.00 am and 8.30 am so we want to spread the people out over the morning to reduce pressure on the track but leave plenty of time in the day to complete the walk comfortably".
Tactical changes to alleviate congestion on Ketetahi and Mangatepopo Rd are being put in place as carparking will be limited to designated car parks in future. Visitors are being encouraged to pick up their shuttle transport from Taupo, Turangi Whakapapa Village and National Park Village.
Transport hubs have been discussed for the 2017-18 season to reduce some of the car parking pressure at Ketetahi and Mangatepopo Roads.
Other tactical changes have been made such as extra toilets at critical points on the track over the Christmas/New Year period.
Options for longer term management will be discussed as part of the review with all affected parties including transport operators, guides and accommodation providers.