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DOC doubles fees for region’s standard huts

The Department of Conservation [DOC] is doubling some of its hut fees, including those in Wairarapa.

Standard hut fees will increase from $5 to $10, and serviced hut fees will move from $15 to $25.

This is the first adjustment to hut category fees since 2008, DOC said.

Local standard huts include Atiwhakatu Hut, Alpha Hut, Roaring Stag Hut, and Cone Hut.

Popular serviced huts include Powell Hut, Jumbo Hut, and Totara Flats Hut.

DOC’s website said six-month backcountry pass prices will increase from $108 to $120, while year passes are set to increase from $144 to $160.

Backcountry passes give unlimited access to most serviced and standard huts, as well as most campsites outside serviced huts.

All new prices will be applied for the 2023 to 2024 booking year from July 1.

A DOC spokesperson said old hut tickets can be used to pay for stays until July 1, 2024.

DOC’s director of heritage and visitors, Cat Wilson, said some recreation facility prices had not changed in 15 years and did not reflect present-day costs.

Wilson said the department has been operating under increased budget pressures from rising construction and maintenance costs, reduced revenue due to the impacts of covid-19, and extreme weather events, including Cyclone Gabrielle.

“Visitor charges contribute to recovering the costs of providing DOC’s recreation accommodation and balances the cost burden between users and taxpayers,” she said.

“The fees collected help support investment into recreation facilities to maintain, repair and improve experiences at huts, campsites, lodges, cottages, and cabins.”

There will also be price changes for the Paparoa Track in Punakaiki this year because of its popularity.

Paparoa’s Hut prices will increase to a level similar to other popular Great Walks.

Different fees for international visitors will also be applied to the Paparoa Track during the summer period, which will be at a rate of 1.5 times the domestic hut fees.

“DOC provides a wide range of experiences to help people connect with the most scenic places in New Zealand. There are choices for all budgets, including many free options,” Wilson said.

There was a massive array of outdoor activities in Aotearoa, from short walks to Great Walks, she said.

Most Great Walks bookings open for 2023 to 2024 between April 20 and May 16.

Non-Great Walk hut, campsite and sole occupancy bookings are due to open in early May.

There are no Great Walks in Wairarapa. However, the Jumbo Circuit is widely considered to be on par for a multi-day tramp, and huts require booking.

Cyclone Gabrielle has disrupted facilities in locations such as Hawke’s Bay and Coromandel, Wilson said.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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