Storm damage and supply-chain delays mean that Southland will not get its Great Walk for another year.
The Hump Ridge Track, New Zealand’s anticipated 11th Great Walk, has been further delayed to October 2024.
Originally expected to be welcomed onto the Great Walk network next month, the Department of Conservation says it will need at least another 12 months to bring it up to standard.
“There’s still a lot to do,” Southern South Island director of operations Aaron Fleming says.
Although the upgrades have passed the halfway point, Flemming said the Southland project partners agreed more time was needed.
The Hump Ridge Track in Tuatapere was earmarked by the Department of Conservation as the next Great Walk in 2019.
Originally due to open in 2022, Covid lockdowns and supply chain issues knocked back projected opening dates to October this year.
Now spring weather and storms have brought further setbacks.
“We’re over the halfway line to bring it up to Great Walk standard,” Fleming confirmed but the required upgrades to trail and bunks would not be in place for at least another year.
The walk out of Tuatapere remians open to the public, although there is ongoing building work at huts and along the trail.
“The track is already open and in use, managed by the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Charitable Trust,” said Fleming. Public access would be given priority over the huts while work continues.
Currently welcoming around 3,500 trampers a year, the Hump Ridge lodges would expect to see almost double that number of guests under the Great Walk programme. The new status comes with an increased profile for international visitors.
The trust would continue to manage bookings at humpridgetrack.co.nz, for the upcoming summer tramping season - running 20 October 2023 to April 2024.
The Hump Ridge track is 61km and takes about three days, from Southland’s Te Waewae Bay, near Invercargill. The mix of alpine and coastal scenery made it a top candidate for addition to the Great Walk network.
“When the Hump Ridge track upgrade is finished it will be safer and more accessible to more people,” d Fleming said.
Important infrastructure was still needed before it could be signed off, including upgrades to bridges and alternate routes for emergency access.
The Great Walk network, which the DoC website describes as a collection of New Zealand’s “premier tracks”, attracts multi-day trampers from across the globe.
The West Coast’s Paparoa Track, which was added to the network in 2020, is already one of the country’s most popular walks, recording more than 6600 bunk nights a year.
While the Hump Ridge Track continues to be open to the public, more work is needed before it can welcome a similar numbers of walkers through its lodges.