Visitor numbers at Te Urewera for the summer period were low due to partial closures of the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk track over summer.
From December 2018 to February 2019 the park received 11,120 manuhiri (visitors) — 8360 New Zealanders and 2760 from other countries.
This was a drop from last summer due to a partial closure of the Great Walk.
Summer occupation of huts in Te Urewera was 37 percent, with 10 percent of campsites booked. Revenue for the summer period was $230,000.
The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk is no longer included in the Department of Conservation figures because of Te Urewera’s independent status as a legal entity with the Te Urewera Act 2014, when it was returned to the Tuhoe iwi.
In a collective statement, Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua, the organisation which represents the Tuhoe nation, said the Great Walk had gone through many changes over the five years since the Tuhoe Settlement.
“Due to a heavy storm back in September causing flash flooding and track damages, a partial temporary closure of the Great Walk between Waiopaoa and Waiharuru was necessary; to ensure the safety of manuhiri, as well as understand the possible impact on Te Urewera.
“Te Kopuru Bridge located closer to Waiharuru was one of the damaged structures, with a fall height of over 2.4 metres. A new pile structure was built in place, making sure the materials aligned to Te Kawa o Te Urewera and the Living Building Challenge, and as a result the track fully re-opened in March 2019.
The Sandy Bay Hut at Waikareiti received 952 manuhiri, more than the previous season’s 808.
Other free short-walk tracks Waikaremoana offers also received a higher volume of hikers.
“Often not advertised like the Great Walk, these short walks around Waikaremoana provide a good day’s walk and scenic views of Te Urewera.”
They include the 30-minute track to the Aniwaniwa Falls, or the two-minute walk to Papakorito Falls. and the two-hour return walk of the Lake Waikareiti track, “which takes you to more tracks to enjoy”.
For those who visited campsites, spending Christmas and New Year at Mokau was a family tradition, they said.
“Tuhoe wants more families to enjoy a safe Te Urewera while staying there.”
The intention was to strengthen the “people connection” with Te Urewera, not depart from it, they said.
“Knowing what giving back means and how people can do that is an ongoing conversation, and a lot was learned about how manuhiri contribute to that.
“The near future suggests that changes are needed to achieve this sense of connection.Preparing for next season will feature the results of those learnings, inviting better attitudes and behaviours that care for each other and most of all, Te Urewera.”