27 Mar 2016

West Coast track closure hits local businesses

3:11 pm on 27 March 2016

A West Coast tourist operator says the two-year closure of a track in the Paparoa National Park is hurting his business and impacting locals, despite the Department of Conservation suggesting it is not a popular spot.

A stretch of the West Coast near Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks)

A stretch of the West Coast near Punakaiki. Photo: 123RF

Part of the Inland Pack Track has been closed since Cyclone Ita hit in April 2014 and the Department of Conservation (DOC) says it is putting its resources into more highly used areas - however those plans have been criticised by Forest and Bird and the Green Party.

Earlier this week DOC said the best returns came from sites that were high-use and that people visited regularly, and the closed Inland Pack Track section was not one of those.

Craig Findlay runs the Punakaiki Beach Camp which has more than 25,000 tourists a year, and says the closure of the track has affected the number of walks his customers can go on.

He said before the Bullock Creek to Fox River track was closed visitors would often stay for two nights to walk it, but now many stayed for just one.

"It was quite an important part of our marketing arsenal to attract people to stay a second night and that's no longer there now."

Mr Findlay said he would like to see the track re-opened and restored to what it previously was.

While he understood DOC had to spread its resources accordingly, he said there had to be an effort to keep popular existing tracks.

Another tourist operator in the area, Bruce Stuart-Menteath, said the suggestion that the section of the closed track was unpopular was not true.

He was concerned about DOC's maintenance of all the tracks in the Paparoa National Park and was unhappy about the focus that was being put on the planned Pike River memorial track.

The closed Inland Pack Track will link to the first new Great Walk in more than 20 years, the Pike29 Memorial Track, named for the 29 men who died in the Pike River Mine explosion in 2010.

DOC estimates at least 2000 hours of skilled chainsaw time, as well as teams to clean up the debris, will be needed to clear the route at a cost of about $62,000.

Between 750 and 1200 people used the track annually before it was closed, while the Pike29 track is anticipated to be used by between 3000 and 5000 walkers a year.

DOC has been contacted for further comment.

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