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A safer Tararua is on track

The Tararua Southern Crossing in winter. PHOTO/CALEB SMITH

It’s the attraction and challenge of the rugged Tararua Ranges that make it a hazardous place, but new recommendations hope to reduce the number of safety incidents in the forest park.

According to the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, there were five deaths in the forest park from 2007 to 2017. Over 180 trampers were involved in search and rescues from 2010 to 2017, ranking it the third highest conservation area in New Zealand for SAR, behind Fiordland and Tongariro national parks.

MSC and the Department of Conservation formed an independent Issue Specific Advisory Group to look at the key issues for trampers in the Tararua Ranges in 2019.

The group’s final report was made public on Thursday, identifying the most common cause of tramping-related SAR as trampers underestimating the time it would take to reach their destination.

Eight solutions were proposed, with the aim of providing clarity on expected journey times, a public interface for reporting track issues, encouraging trampers to factor in longer journey times during their planning, and providing accurate information on conditions for trampers to set realistic expectations.

The new ‘Plan My Walk’ app by MSC providing accurate information on tracks, weather forecasts, and track alerts, including feedback on tracks for future trampers.

A partnership between DOC and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research provided targeted weather forecasts for four huts in the park and included extreme condition hazard alerts.

DOC Wairarapa operations manager Kathy Houkamau said the group’s recommendations were a positive step forward in helping trampers.

“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 said

“We look forward to working with MSC on further improvements.”

MSC chief executive Mike Daisley said the partnership approach was 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.”

DOC and MSC would 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.

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