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Local gem set to reopen

Closed more than a year due to major slip damage, the Aorangi Forest Park’s iconic Wairarapa Pūtangirua Pinnacles, with its unique concrete-like sedimentary structures, is expected to reopen in time for summer.

A large slip about 100m from the car park in February 2023 has meant access to the three tracks in the park has remained closed since then.

Department of Conservation [DoC] Wairarapa operations manager Kathy Houkamau said that although it’s still not known when the Pinnacle tracks will reopen, DoC intends to reinstate visitor access before the end of the year.

Houkamau confirmed that the Pinnacles are still intact and not visibly affected by the slip, which Doc is not planning to clear. Instead, it intends to install improved signage and track markers and consider alternatives for access instead.

“We know the Pinnacles are a popular visitor attraction for our region, and visitors come from all over to experience them,” she said.

Tourists are attracted to the Pinnacles’ large pillar formations of jagged rock, which had been formed over 120,000 years by erosive forces like rain and floods that washed over scree and gravel.

Destination Wairarapa Barbra Hyde said the Pinnacles have been very popular, and international visitors became aware of them due to their appearance in the ‘Paths of the Dead’ sequence in Sir Peter Jackson’s third ‘Lord of the Rings’ film, ‘Return of the King’, which premiered in 2003.

“Imagery of the Pinnacles, which are so dramatic and distinctive, always elicits a great response when used on social media – which we have not been able to do while it’s been closed,” Hyde said.

“Once reopened, it would certainly be once again a popular destination and experience.

“It’s a great experience teamed up with walking up the steps of the Cape Palliser lighthouse.”

Before the slip, routes were open that led to the Pūtangirua Pinnacles and lookout, starting from the streambed, and included a two to four hour walk with views of Palliser Bay and Lake Ōnoke.

The scenic reserve walks are approximately a half-hour drive south of Martinborough.

Although the campsite remains open, visitors are advised not to attempt to either walk around or over the slip for safety reasons.

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