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Popular South Island National Park track reopens after flood repairs

Popular South Island National Park track reopens after flood repairs
August 28, 2019

Magnificent views of alpine glacial lakes and the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Southern Alps/KÄ Tiritiri o te Moana await visitors to the freshly repaired Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) partially closed the popular Short Walk in March after extreme flooding washed away 120 metres of track and structurally damaged a swing bridge. The same storm event destroyed Waiho bridge on the West Coast and indefinitely closed Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe glacier valley access road.

Contractors have spent recent months repairing and strengthening Hooker Valley Track’s damaged second swing bridge and have created 257 metres of new walkway. The track reopened this week and already hundreds of people have been enjoying the walk, with news spreading of its reopening by word of mouth.

Advising that the remote location made the repair challenging, DOC Senior Recreation and Historic Ranger, David Dittmer stated “we can’t drive vehicles through the national park, so the contractors had to walk an hour in and out every day and all materials had to be flown in by helicopter."

With the alpine environment also meaning repairs couldn’t begin until winter conditions had eased in early August, Dittmer added “even then the contractors had their work cut out for them, completing $150,000 of repairs in between bouts of snow, rain, hail and freezing fog."

The Hooker Valley Track features dramatic views of Mueller Glacier, Hooker Lake and Aoraki/Mount Cook. The track provides access to and connects Sefton Bivouac, Copland Shelter and Empress Hut.

From mid-October many different wildflowers can be seen along the walk, including the world’s biggest buttercup, the Mount Cook buttercup/kÅpukupuku.

Dittmer, who has lived in the national park for 10 years, says spring is one of the best times to visit, commenting “the mountains are still snow-capped, but the weather is warmer which makes an early morning hike even more enjoyable."

However, the Senior Ranger warns the weather can change at any moment and visitors need to be prepared.

He concluded "it’s important to remember this is an alpine environment and its common to experience strong wind, high rainfall, heavy snowfall and rapid changes in temperature at any time of the year.

"Dress warmly, bring plenty of drinking water and wear sturdy footwear".

A million people visited Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park last season, with a hundred thousand of them walking the Hooker Valley Track.

Images: Bridge on the Hooker Valley Track (top) and the track in summer (below).

Related Articles

18th July 2019 - Kauri dieback fears sees closure of Bay of Islands walking trails

15th July 2019 - Hump Ridge Track set to be New Zealand’s next Great Walk

14th July 2019 - New Zealand’s ‘admission fee’ to benefit conservation and tourism

5th July 2019 - World Urban Parks awards Auckland’s Shakespear Regional Park

4th June 2019 - Mt Cook National Park visitor numbers exceed one million

2nd June 2019 - Increased Great Walks pricing sees fewer tourists but more income

16th May 2019 - New Zealand Government delivers strategy for sustainable tourism growth

23rd April 2019 - New Qualmark Awards to recognise exceptional New Zealand visitor experiences

17th December 2018 - Department of Conservation launches new visitor behaviour campaign

12th May 2017 - Department of Conservation to raise charges for overseas visitors walking New Zealand’s trails

2nd September 2013 - Department of Conservation job cuts ‘a nightmare for New Zealanders’

12th November 2010 - Minister of Conservation opens new Milford Sound attraction

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