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Visitors make most of Wairarapa

Campers at Mt Holdsworth camping ground. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Wairarapa had an unusually busy summer at its outdoor attractions, despite continued border closures.

The Department of Conservation said many huts across New Zealand were at or near capacity during the summer weekends.

In Wairarapa, Powell Hut averaged 29 people every Saturday night from December 1, 2020 to February 28.

Jumbo and Atiwhakatu huts averaged 17 and 23 people respectively on Saturdays for the same period. That equates to 91 per cent capacity for Powell Hutt and 87 per cent capacity for both Jumbo and Atiwhakatu.

“DOC works to support and encourage people to get out into nature, so it’s fantastic to see people making the most of our beautiful backyard this past summer,” Wairarapa senior ranger Sean Rudman said.

The increase in visitors led to a 39 per cent increase in revenue in comparison to the previous year across DOC’s most popular destinations: Mount Holdsworth, the Pinnacles, and Waiohine Gorge. This includes accommodation fees from huts, campgrounds, and lodges at these sites.

DOC huts reopened as New Zealand moved down to covid-19 alert level two in May last year.

DOC said to maintain the government’s guidelines for gatherings, bookable accommodation was capped to 10 people, and there should be no more than 10 people at any of the larger non-bookable huts at any given time.

Mount Holdsworth campground caretaker Eric Barber, said that in the five years he has been based at Holdsworth this has been his busiest summer by far.

“It’s just been huge. There was a lot more people, a lot more families and a lot more people where it was their first-time camping.

“Many were locals, but there were more visitors than I’ve met before from further afield. Certainly, there were a lot more from Wellington and even Palmerston North as the Otaki Forks road closure limited camping on the Kapiti side.”

Barber said that overall visitor behaviour at the Holdsworth campground this summer was “really good”:

“Holdsworth is renown to be a great family-friendly place to stay. Having a caretaker living on site is a draw card for families that want to have a good time without other campers keeping young kids awake at night.”

Barber does his rounds every night to collect campsite fees and chat to the campers. He said many were surprised that he had an eftpos machine because there is no cellphone coverage at the campground.

Mt Holdsworth campground caretaker Eric Barber demonstrates the ease of his ‘little machine’.

“My little machine has been the best thing for campers and DOC in today’s cashless society. Next time you’re heading out to stay at Holdsworth – no need to rush to the money machine and get out cash. Just bring your card along with you.”

Rudman said rubbish left behind was the biggest issue caused by the influx of trampers in the Tararuas over the summer season.

“We found a significant amount of rubbish in the toilet tanks at Atiwhakatu, which limits how much they can hold and means we’re emptying toilets more often, at a large cost.”

Rudman would like to remind trampers to be prepared to “pack in, pack out” when they are heading out into the bush.

“That means you carry all your litter out with you, even food scraps. Food scraps can take years to break down and they feed predators like rats, stoats, and mice. Help protect our native wildlife by packing away your rubbish,” Rudman said.

He wanted to remind trampers to make their trip easier by minimising the amount of waste they produce.

“When you’re packing remove food packaging and pack food and other supplies into reusable containers. Take a bag or a container that you can use to store your rubbish.”

DOC said there were still plenty of opportunities to get into nature over the colder months.

DOC’s seasonal web page includes options and safety information including top tips to stay safe and be prepared.

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