New safety recommendation to benefit trampers in the Tararua Ranges
A new report has made recommendations to reduce tramping safety incidents in the Lower North Island’s Tararua Forest Park.
It’s the attraction and challenge of the rugged Tararua Ranges that make it a hazardous place, leaving trampers underestimating how challenging it can be, says the NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC) and the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Over the years, MSC and DOC have been seeking ways to reduce the number of incidents in the forest park. Recent efforts began by understanding what causes incidents.
Over 180 trampers were involved in search and rescues (SAR) in the forest park between 2010-2017, ranking it the third highest conservation area in New Zealand for SAR, behind Fiordland and Tongariro National Parks.
There were also five fatalities in the decade ending 2017, according to MSC’s A Walk in the Park? research document.
In 2019, DOC and MSC formed an independent Issue Specific Advisory Group to look at the key issues for trampers in the Tararua Ranges. Members were selected for their diverse range of experience and various skill sets.
The final report, released today, makes a series of recommendations about steps that could be taken to better provide people with information that will allow them to make informed decisions.
MSC identified that the most common cause of tramping-related search and rescues (SAR) is trampers underestimating the time it takes to reach their destination.
The advisory group proposed eight solutions which would provide clarity on expected journey times, a public interface for reporting track issues, encourage trampers to factor in longer journey times during their planning, and to provide accurate information on conditions for trampers to set realistic expectations.
Since completion of the report in 2020, DOC and MSC have been working together to implement the recommendations.
The new Plan My Walk app by MSC ticks off a range of solutions by providing accurate information on tracks, weather forecasts and track alerts, including feedback on tracks for future trampers.
DOC’s recent partnership with NIWA provides targeted weather forecasts for four huts in the park and includes extreme condition hazard alerts.
DOC's Wairarapa Operations Manager Kathy Houkamau says the group’s recommendations are a positive step forward in helping trampers in the Tararua Ranges.
“Since receiving the report, we have been able to implement some recommendations quite quickly, and we are pleased to continue this work to ensure the forest park is an enjoyable place for all trampers,” she says.
“We look forward to working with MSC on further improvements.”
MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley says the partnership approach with DOC is producing some highly effective interventions at both a local and national level.
“The work completed by the Issue Specific Advisory Group has been instrumental at identifying the key issues to focus on in our goal of reducing safety incidents in the Tararua Ranges.
“The process undertaken was thorough, and the outcome is that we now have some excellent solutions to work on,” he says.
DOC and MSC continue to work through the remainder of the agreed solutions to provide trampers with relevant location-specific information, enable better assessment and awareness of key risks, and enhancing decision-making.
Notes to journalists:
- Read the Issue Specific Advisory report here.
- For more information on the Issue Specific Advisory Group head to the MSC website.
- Find out more about the new NIWA weather locations.
- Download the free Plan My Walk app or find it online at www.planmywalk.nz
- MSC insights document into New Zealand tramping incidents A Walk in the Park? MSC, 2018
Contact Communications Advisor Rebekah Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org with any other queries or to organise an interview with MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley.
CAPTION: Tararua Southern Crossing in the winter. PHOTO/CALEB SMITH