Tramping - Tararua Ranges


Kickoff meeting for ISAG - Tararuas

Kickoff Meeting June 2019

With its proximity to Wellington, the Tararua Ranges are one of the most frequently used Forest Parks in the country. There are approximately 152,000 visitors each year, with 130,000 coming from Wellington. The ranges act as a natural divide between Kapiti and Horowhenua to the west and Wairarapa to the east.

The Tararua’s have a long and proud tramping history. The New Zealand Forest Service established it as the first State Forest Park in 1954 and New Zealand’s first tramping club, the Tararua Tramping Club, built one of the country's earliest dedicated tramping huts, Field Hut, in 1924.   

The 116,535-hectareTararua Forest Park covers more than three-quarters of the Tararua Range. Nowadays it is administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and extends from the Pahiatua Track in the north, to the Remutaka Saddle in the south. The main access points are from Holdsworth on the eastern side, and Otaki Forks on the western side.  

Among New Zealand trampers, the Tararua Ranges are widely considered to present some of the most challenging conditions. Despite the relatively low elevation, the combination of rough, steep and densely bush clad mountains and frequent severe weather which often provides gale force winds, driving rain and little visibility, the Tararua’s provide a true test of tramping ability.      

The Mountain Safety Council (MSC) has identified the Tararua Ranges as being one of the leading hotspots for tramping incidents. With 186 people involved in search and rescue over 7 years (2010 – 2017) the Tararua Forest Park is the third highest conservation area for search and rescues, behind Fiordland and Tongariro National Parks. A further 5 fatalities in 10 years (2007 – 2017) makes the park the top spot in the North Island for tramping fatalities. 

MSC’s Insights Publication A Walk in the Park? provides an in-depth exploration of tramping participation and incidents over the past ten years. Starting on page 42, the publication features a hotspot chapter devoted to the Tararua Ranges, containing insights specifically pertaining to the area.  

DOC supports the MSC establishing an Issue Specific Advisory Group focused on the Tararua’s. We’re looking forward to contributing and working together to implement solutions that will improve visitor safety.
– Kathy Houkamau, Operations Manager Wairarapa – Pou Matarautaki


The Tararua’s are an often-underestimated place to go Tramping that can have significant consequences for unprepared participants. It’s great that MSC are now able to lead this process based on the insights they’ve developed in the last few years. We’re looking forward to being a part of this advisory group process.”
– Sergeant Anthony Harmer, NZ Police


This Terms of Reference formally establishes an Issue Specific Advisory Group which will focus on solving the safety issues relating to tramping in the Tararua Ranges. 

The purpose of the advisory group is to:  

  • utilise insights to identify what is causing people to experience safety issues, and  
  • use the knowledge and expertise of those in the group to develop specific targeted interventions that aim to reduce the number of safety incidents to trampers in the Tararua Ranges.  

Broadly speaking, the aim of this process is to achieve a reduction in the rate of people requiring search and rescues, experiencing harm through sustaining injuries, or never returning home from their adventure. Specific success measures will be defined for each intervention prior to implementation. 

Scope of the Advisory Group 

The advisory group will only focus on safety issues relating to recreational tramping in the Tararua Ranges. It will not explore topics related to site congestion and visitor numbers, site access (such as parking and transport), infrastructure, toileting, environmental leave no trace themes or cultural topics, unless these are directly relevant to safety issues.   

The MSC, with the support of DOC, will manage the process and facilitate the advisory group. The MSC will then collaborate with DOC to narrow in on the most appropriate interventions/solutions and ensure that they are realistic and appropriate.  

Upon completion of the advisory group process, the group will be disbanded. However the MSC may choose to reconvene the group later to assess the intervention/s against the pre-defined success measures. This process may include a review of the intervention/s to determine their effectiveness and could result in either a continuation, an update or adjustment, an increased rollout or ceasing of the intervention/s.   

It is not the role of the group to implement any suggested initiatives, however individuals within the group may play a role in implementing them because of other affiliations or organisations they work for. 

Supporting evidence/Insights  

Further insights will be prepared for the advisory group for their use during this process. This may include other evidence or research available through third-party sources and supplied by the MSC. In the meantime, interested parties are encouraged to read A Walk in the Park? available from the MSC website.   

Read A Walk in the Park?

For more information please contact Bevan Smith, Partnerships Advisor 

View Terms Of Reference