Outdoor safety experts ask ‘avoid the hills’ after record rain

2nd February 2023|4min

New Zealand’s land-based outdoor safety organisation is asking those in flooded and rain-impacted areas to enjoy this Waitangi weekend away from local tracks and parks.  

MEDIA RELEASE 2 February 2023

It is very uncommon for the NZ Mountain Safety Council to strongly recommend people stay out of public conservation land or regional parks on a scale like this. However, the week of record-breaking rainfall in the upper North Island has created many safety concerns particularly relating to the uncertainty of possible damage to tracks and huts.  

MetService say the worst of the rain is over for Auckland and Northland, but Coromandel and the Bay of Plenty including Rotorua and Tauranga, and Taranaki have heavy rain warnings and watches in place today.  

MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley says it will be tempting for those in the impacted areas to want to get out in the fresh air for the long weekend, especially as the weather looks to be improving. 

"However, at this stage, we do not know the extent of potential damage, and the process to assess all the tracks and huts will take some time before agencies can declare them safe for use,” he says.  

The severe weather that the upper North Island has experienced over the past week has been devastating. 

“Our thoughts are with those people who’ve been impacted, for them the focus will be on recovery but we know many will be considering their long weekend plans with some enthusiasm for getting outdoors.  

“However, this time around it’s about doing that appropriately, so now isn’t the time to head into the locations like the Waitakere or Hunua Parks, or into the Coromandel. It’s likely your travel will place unnecessary strain on potentially vulnerable communities who are focused on the recovery,” Daisley says. 

MSC’s Plan My Walk app and website has up-to-date track alerts. Once tracks are assessed and these areas become safe to explore, Daisley encourages people to leave track reviews with photos to help others understand the conditions so they can appropriately plan and prepare. 

Auckland Council Regional Parks manager Scott De Silva says the heavy rainfall had caused slips across the city’s regional parks, and damage assessments were ongoing where possible.  

“We advise people not to go into the parks until further notice, when we have had a chance to properly assess the conditions of the tracks and make sure they are safe to use,” he said. 

The Department of Conservation (DOC) yesterday temporarily closed access to the Coromandel’s Kauaeranga Valley, and various tracks, huts and campsites in the region as a precaution until MetService weather warnings were lifted. DOC are continuing to advise people not to go onto public conservation land in affected areas, even if sites are still open.  

Plan for the unexpected this long weekend  

For the rest of New Zealand, the long weekend is here! The recent weather events in the North Island are a reminder of how changeable and volatile Aotearoa’s weather can be, even in the summer months. 

MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley says public holidays present the opportunity for an extended adventure and with that requires some extra thinking. 

Over the past decade during Waitangi Weekend, the number of those heading outdoors increases and as a result there have been twice as many tramping injuries, and search and rescue call outs across the weekend compared to a typical weekend, according to MSC insights. 

“Finding the right track that suits yours, and everyone in your group’s, skills and abilities is a good start to planning a safe adventure, as is ensuring that track suits the forecast weather conditions,” Daisley says.    

“Before leaving, packing warm clothing layers, checking the weather forecast and understanding how that can change and letting that influence your choice of walk.”  

Using Plan My Walk by MSC can support trip planning by finding the right track, checking for track alerts and the correct weather forecast, and ticking off the suggested gear list. This plan can then be sent to group members and emergency contacts.  

Refer to the new New Zealand Land Safety Code: 

  1. Choose the right trip for you: Learn about the route and make sure you have the skills for it.
  2. Understand the weather: It can change fast. Check the forecast and change your plans if needed.
  3. Pack warm clothes and extra food: Prepare for bad weather and an unexpected night out.
  4. Share your plans and take ways to get help: Telling a trusted friend your trip details and taking a distress beacon can save your life.
  5. Take care of yourself and each other: Eat, drink and rest, stick with your group and make decisions together.

For more information and media comments: 

Contact MSC Communications Advisor Rebekah Wilson here for more photos or to request an interview.

Header photo: Karamatura - Donald McLean Return track, Matthew Cattin