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More return from the DoC estate – bike track concessions

  • June 27th, 2011

Among the events of a personally eventful fortnight was a three day (two night) crossing of the Heaphy Track by mountain bike with a group of friends. It was wet, slippery (only confident riders should start) and wonderful. The greenness, variety and sense of achievement each evening were as I remembered from the previous time – 40 years ago. 

Riding a gnarly track means eyes are down more, so some scenery is missed. But the compensation is break times just looking. Riding is faster. The pressing trees were bigger and  more oppressive on the long climb from the Heaphy to the tablelands. Admittedly it drizzled much of the way, but it is time to cut more viewshafts. I've every sympathy with early Maori who burned the bush hunting Moa. We are creatures of the bush edge, and long days in the gloomy half light of the full canopy bush would have prompted celebration of every clearing they could make.

Which brings me to the suggestion. DoC staff were proud to tell us that they have spending approval for $2m to upgrade the track and facilities, including for replacement huts.

We thought the existing huts were great. As Karl du Fresne notes in his DomPost praise they were infinitely better than in the past. I endorse his enthusiasm for DoC's facilities, and the staff attitude to the bike experiment.

So what about dedicating the existing huts to bikers, and building new huts for trampers instead? Or perhaps bikers could get the new huts if they have to be further off the direct route, because it is easier for them to cover extra miles. The new huts could be on new sites, taking better advantage of views, with new sections of track leading into them. In the hundreds of thousands of acres, new huts and new sections of track could reduce any crowding effect at peak times without any disadvantages. Eventually perhaps paralell single track for bikers could separate the traffic for long stretches or nearly all of the route. Bikers need only two huts, for the two nights they should plan on.

Perhaps DoC could grant concessions to private hut operators to run  commercial "refuges" like those the Europeans have in their National Park equivalents. It would be even better to be able to bike without bedding and main meal food. The refuge concessionaires could be obliged to pay for and maintain the sections of track used exclusively by their customers. They might even be able to help finance some of the new huts. Al Morrison is clearly ready to defend more paid services as he explained last week to a Select Committee.

Or would this be too much to get past the doctrinaire Green antipathy to economically useful DoC management? They remind me of Mencken's description of Puritans – haunted by fear that someone, somewhere may be having some fun. In the Green case it is fear that the person may be paying to have fun, much worse if that fun is burden (and guilt) free.


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