In a bid to improve people’s enjoyment of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the Department of Conservation (DOC) is urging people planning to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing this summer to use shuttle services from the local towns around Tongariro National Park.
Vehicle crowding at both ends of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing has adversely impacted on people’s enjoyment of this world-famous day hike, recently designated as a new Great Day walk, says DOC.
To improve the experience for all visitors, parking restrictions will be in place at both road ends of the track, allowing shuttle services to provide safe and easy access to the hike.
The changes include a four-hour time-restriction for private vehicles at the Mangatepopo Road end. This gives visitors time to enjoy short walks, but people wanting to do the entire hike, which takes an average of six to eight hours to complete, will need to use shuttle transport, says DOC.
Shuttle services operate from Whakapapa Village, National Park Village, Turangi, Taupo, Ohakune and Raetihi. They take visitors to the start, at Mangatepopo Road end, and pick them up at the end of the hike from Ketetahi Road end. Information on all approved operators is available from i-sites around the region and on the DOC website.
The restrictions apply for the coming summer season - between Labour Weekend (21 October 2017) and 30 April 2018.
In addition, DOC also plans to develop a stronger appreciation of the cultural and environmental values of Tongariro National Park, a dual World Heritage Area.
As local kaumatua, Te Ngaehe Wanikau, explains: “The mountain peaks and all waterways on Tongariro and his peaks, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, are sacred to the local hapu Ngati Hikairo Ki Tongariro.”
Visitors to the area are asked to keep their own safety and wellbeing paramount, and also to respect the sanctity of the maunga tapu (sacred mountains) by not touching or entering any of the waterways, including the alpine lakes.
“Ngati Hikairo ki Tongariro places extreme importance on their guardian role in protecting not only Tongariro and his peaks, but also the safety and wellbeing of visitors to the region,” says Wanikau.
The Department of Conservation is removing access signs to the peaks and visitors are asked to stay to the marked and formed tracks.
More loos; leave drones at home!
DOC has also promised there will be additional toilets in place on the hike this summer. And is encouraging people to use the toilets, as defecating on the tracks or in the alpine vegetation off track is unacceptable, offensive and a human health hazard!
Meanwhile, DOC is reminding visitors to leave their drones at home. They are not allowed to be used in the Park and their use impact on the experience of other hikers wishing to enjoy this unique and special journey.
Says Operations Manager Bhrent Guy: “This summer expect to see more conservation Rangers at the beginning of the track and on the track to share these important messages with our visitors.”
Local business operators have welcomed these announcements.
"We welcome the fact that DOC will now better resource management of visitors to the Park. It will be a huge help," says Murray Wilson, Chairman of the National Park Villages Business Association.
"Local tourism operators have long advocated for improving visitor flows, visitor experience and impacts on the environment, as well as better opportunities for visitors to understand the cultural significance of the Park."
Below are some of the transport operators who provide Tongariro Alpine Crossing shuttle services from nearby villages: