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DoC proposes 250km of new walking tracks

DoC proposes 250km of new walking tracks

The Department of Conservation proposes to build 250km of new walking tracks across New Zealand over the next ten years, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

It also proposes to upgrade or replace another 499 tracks spanning over 1900km, and upgrade, build or replace over 90 huts as part of a major revamp of the recreational infrastructure provided on conservation land.

"DoC's vision for the future of New Zealand's recreational facilities in the outdoors is laid out for the first time in a series of 13 regional plans and a national overview to be circulated for consultation," Mr Carter said.

"This is a major event in the history of DoC. The department maintains a huge, economically significant network of huts, tracks, campsites and visitor facilities all over the country. This network has evolved in an ad hoc way over generations.

"Now, thanks to an investment of $349m in DoC's visitor facilities announced in the 2002/2003 budget, we have a unique opportunity to revamp and reorganise this network into something that better meets the recreational needs of all New Zealanders and the economies of our regions," Mr Carter said.

"Over the past year, DoC has been examining what mix of tracks and facilities will achieve this on the long term. Our resulting proposals seek to retain the bulk of New Zealand's back country huts and tracks as a priority, and maintain the full range of recreational opportunities from short walks to untrammelled wilderness areas.

"But we also want to ensure entirely new opportunities are created for New Zealanders and tourists on conservation land. Doing so will help ease pressure at key destinations suffering from crowding and maximise the potential of New Zealand's outdoors," Mr Carter said.

He said DoC proposed to build about 80 km of new day walks throughout the country in line with the shorter time-frame of many people's recreational opportunities.

"We also propose to upgrade facilities on a wider range of significant 2 to 5 day tramps, and we want to create up to 170km of new tramping tracks, particularly in the South Island High Country, the Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and Northland.

"In revamping recreational facilities we will be seeking to meet high standards to ensure visitors and facilities do not damage New Zealand's environment," Mr Carter said.

He said some huts and tracks which received little use or were duplicated by other nearby facilities, would have to close under DoC's proposals.

"Some of these kinds of tracks are used so rarely they no longer appear on maps. It simply makes more sense to spend money on infrastructure that is used regularly," he said.

"DoC will be consulting extensively on its proposals. I encourage people everywhere to look closely at what is proposed for their favourite haunts on conservation land and pass on their views to DoC before the end of January 2004."

DoC maintains more than 300 campsites, 12,500km of track, 1000 backcountry huts, 2,130km of road, 1570 toilets, 570 carparks, 14,000 bridges, boardwalks and other structures, 390 amenity areas and 79 visitor and information centres.

The national overview of DoC's plan is called Towards a Better Network of Visitor Facilties and is available at www.doc.govt.nz. The 13 regional plans are also available from the same site tomorrow.

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