Great Walks Recovery On Track For Summer
Vital conservation and visitor infrastructure destroyed by a severe flood event in Fiordland earlier this year is being rebuilt through a $13.7 million Budget 2020 investment, announced Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage.
“This investment will mean iconic Great Walks such as the Routeburn track and the full length of the Milford Track should be ready to re-open in time for the summer season. This means Kiwis can get out into nature, along with international visitors when it’s safe for borders to re-open,” Eugenie Sage said.
“The three-day storm from 4 to 6 February sparked a major rescue operation as torrential rain and slips severely damaged huts and wiped out sections of track. More than 820 mm of rain fell in Fiordland during the storm, one tenth of the region’s average annual rainfall.
“Soon after the storm I visited the area and saw how the extreme weather had significantly damaged more than 440 kms of walking tracks, with the Milford Track and Routeburn Tracks sustaining the most damage. Lake Howden Hut and 32 bridges were damaged, along with other huts, campsites, and facilities.
“It’s important to get this region back up and running as soon as possible to help sustain local jobs and businesses and enable people to get out into nature and experience a spectacular part of Aotearoa.
“Pipopiotahi/Milford Sound has more than one million visitors a year and the Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s premier walking tracks, attracting more than 14,000 users a year.
“DOC staff also use the tracks to carry out vital conservation work and it will be important to restore predator trapping networks which were also destroyed by flooding and slips.
“We’re committed to rebuilding together to get our local economies moving again and ensuring New Zealanders can enjoy the very best of their own backyard,” Eugenie Sage said.
The funding, over four years, is contingent on an action plan being approved by the Ministers of Finance and Conservation. It is allocated as a cost pressure from the main Budget 2020 and not a specific part of the COVID Recovery and Response Fund. The package comprises:
· $9.52m capital expenditure (material and labour costs of replacing assets such as tracks, bridges, and huts)
· $4.21m of associated operating costs for the assets repaired and replaced
How big a job is it?
The programme of work is significant and will involve engineering and Geotech assessments, along with design work and assessing long-term options for climate change resilience and relocating assets where appropriate.
When will tracks re-open?
The department aims to have the Milford Track open this summer, as well as the Routeburn Track from end to end provided its geotechnical assessment allows for visitor safety across the storm damaged section at the Key Summit end. The geotechnical work is presently underway.