By MATTHEW MCKEW
There’s been movement, finally.
Department of Conservation’s (DoC) dropped the news it’ll install a toilet on Queenstown’s Ben Lomond to stop caught-short hikers causing a mess.
It comes a year after the mountain was dubbed ‘‘faecal peak’’ for the increasing piles of human waste.
Thousands climb the 1748m each year to take in the commanding views of Queenstown and Lake Whakatipu, but all too many were leaving something behind.
Retired teacher Mark Douglas has summited the peak 420 times and says over the years there’s ‘‘been more and more loo paper found on the side of the track’’.
The final section of the trail runs through Ben Lomond Station.
Its farmer, Hamish Foster, has been urging DoC to do something about the piles of poo since he spotted the patches about four years ago.
‘‘We are delighted, it’s very important because of the growth in numbers of people using that track.
‘‘It’s become a real environmental issue,’’ Foster says.
‘It was a health and safety issue’ – DoC
DoC’s local man Geoff Owen says a containment toilet will be installed within 12 months, while another will be set up at Lake Alta, within the Remarkables Conservation Area.
‘‘They are designed for sub-alpine environments, specifically to withstand extreme weather conditions, such as high winds and heavy snow.
‘‘The first new loo will be at Ben Lomond, most likely to be in vicinity of the Ben Lomond Saddle,’’ Owen says.
Where it finally lands up being will depend on snow and wind risks, as well as avoiding ridges and popular photo spots.
‘‘At this location we’re seeking to protect the vulnerable sub-alpine environment,’’ he says.
‘‘We recognise this is a well-used, popular spot and it’s our role to protect it for future generations to enjoy.
‘‘Indiscriminate toileting in high-use areas is also a health and safety issue.’’
Foster never took issue with those individuals dropping trou, saying it was a five-hour or so hike that many would expect had facilities.
‘‘There’s definitely been less people up there because of the closed borders, but it’s still been an issue.
‘‘It’s critical it [the toilet] is in the right place — now the funding is confirmed we have to make sure we do it once and do it right.
‘‘We’re just stoked they’ve committed to doing it and look forward to it being installed.’’
He thanked former local MP Hamish Walker, local DoC representatives and Mountain Scene for pressing the issue.
Lake Alta’s a much smaller hike, around 90 minutes return, but draws people in with its stunning vistas and connection to The Lord of the Rings.
Sir Peter Jackson used it as a filming location for the fictional Dimrill Dale during his retelling of Tolkien’s trilogy and it can be packed in summer.
Douglas recalls having to dig trenches when taking 120 Queenstown Primary School kids on visits there, because of the lack of facilities.
‘‘That environment is so delicate up there and unique.
‘‘Ben Lomond has tussock and some other stuff, but Lake Alta is quite remarkable.’’
The 70-year-old calls it ‘‘a damn good idea’’ to install a loo and says the more toilets, the less rubbish will be found around Queenstown’s tracks.
DoC says installing toilets doesn’t remove the need for trampers to plan ahead, use facilities beforehand and follow the ‘Tiaki Promise’ — a commitment that while travelling New Zealand, people will respect the culture and environment by ‘‘treading lightly and leaving no trace’’.