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Baldock: Hut and track users must have say

Baldock: Hut and track users must have say

United Future conservation spokesman Larry Baldock today urged trampers, hunters, fishers and others to make last-minute submissions on the Department of Conservation's review of outdoor facilities such as huts and tracks, if they haven't already.

In many cases, DOC is advocating that "low usage: huts be subjected to "minimal maintenance", which means that they will be inspected every two years and although some minor maintenance will be undertaken, if a building becomes dangerous or unsanitary it will be taken down.

"The irony is that these huts have become 'low usage' because years of under-funding meant that DOC couldn't maintain them, or more importantly, the tracks that led to them.

"It's also no coincidence that these are mostly category four huts in terms of the hut ticket system, which means that they are free and DOC gets no revenue from them.

"While I applaud the department's attempt to pursue better visitor facilities at the more accessible corners of the conservation estate for family groups and tourists, those who enjoy roaming in some of the more remote areas should not be forgotten," he said.

A number of recreational clubs already have agreements in place with DOC making them hut custodians. Before any huts are deemed to be 'minimal maintenance', Baldock argues that local clubs and non-profit organisations should be given first option to enter into such arrangements.

DOC's mission statement is to "conserve New Zealand's natural and historic heritage for all to enjoy now and in the future".

"But people must be able to access our natural heritage to enjoy it. Everyone who goes into the hills needs to be aware of what the department is planning in their area and make sure that they have their say."

Submissions close tomorrow. Copies of the proposal for each conservancy (region) and submission forms are available at Department of Conservation offices or online at www.doc.govt.nz

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