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New Zealand’s latest Coronavirus measures significantly impacts outdoor recreation

New Zealand’s latest Coronavirus measures significantly impacts outdoor recreation
March 25, 2020

As New Zealand moves to a COVID-19 Level 4 state of emergency at midnight tonight (Wednesday 25th March 2020), the impact to outdoor activities will be significant.

In these unprecedented times, the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC), NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) and Recreation Aotearoa share what this means for outdoor recreation in New Zealand. The advice they share comes from the New Zealand Ministry of Health and is provided to ensure a consistent approach against COVID-19.

The MSC is strongly encouraging all trampers, hunters and outdoor recreation enthusiasts to adhere to the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 criteria, as announced on Monday 23rd March, by the New Zealand Government. MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley reiterates that the ‘eliminate’ criteria of Level 4 requires everyone to stay home and avoid all non-essential movements.

Daisley notes “unfortunately, this latest development is going to have a significant impact on many people’s plans to get out into the hills, but that’s a small price to pay for the alternative of not getting on top of the COVID-19 virus. Our message to everyone is simple: stay at home, stay out of the backcountry, put the trip plans on ice and save them for another day.

“We will all have plenty of opportunities to enjoy our wonderful country once this is over, we all want New Zealanders to stay safe and healthy.”

However, this doesn’t mean people can’t get outside and get physical activity. Daisley advises “it’s about choosing the appropriate level of recreation, maintaining some sense of physical activity for health and wellbeing benefits, but not driving anywhere to go for a walk or run, don’t tackle those longer challenging day trips and certainly nothing that requires an overnight stay.”

The Ministry of Health has advised that everyone should “stop all interactions with other people outside of those in your household” and to “only spend time with those who you are in self-isolation with, keep your distance (minimum of 2-metres) from all others at all times”.

People are advised to stick to their local residential neighbourhood for exercise – “walk or run to the local park, go for a short walk in the local bush reserve, take your mountain bike up your local bike track, but all your short outings must start and end at your home, and require no driving.

“Always maintain the necessary social distancing measures. It’s also essential that people don’t meet up with others when they’re out getting some exercise, only take part in these activities with the people in your household.”

All DOC campsites, backcountry huts and lodges (including those on Great Walks) are closed with all bookings being cancelled as it is not appropriate to participate in these activities at the present time. DOC advises that visitors will not be allowed in locations where people are in close proximity due to the risk of potential community transmission. The MSC suggests you put your trip plans on hold and select shorter, local and more suitable physical activities.

You can't self-isolate at a DOC hut, lodge or campsite and hunting and tramping in the backcountry means people will not be following the government’s directive to stay at home and only travel or leave your home when it is necessary.

Daisley adds “we must eliminate any travel; every contact could spread the virus. The more you ignore this advice, the longer this will last. The Roar hunting season is effectively cancelled this year, stay at home, be with your family and ensure NZ has the best chance of getting through this.”

The MSC is urging hunters to be aware of the consequences should they get into trouble, Daisley stresses “if you get injured, or require search and rescue help, you’re instantly putting others at risk, the number of human contacts that would occur should a land search and rescue be required would defeat the purpose of Alert Level 4 and ultimately mean we’re all in lockdown for longer.

“We want to make sure all of our health and other essential frontline services are available for the response to COVID-19.”

The above information might also change as the COVID-19 situation progresses  - readers are advised to go to covid19.govt.nz for updated information. This update is provided to ensure a consistent approach is used by everyone in New Zealand uniting against COVID-19.

Image: Rotorua Redwoods Treewalk

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