Classic given a year’s grace

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By PHILIP CHANDLER

Queenstown’s Evan McWhirter is delighted his Routeburn Classic adventure race has now got at least one more year to run.

He’s organised the 32km Routeburn Track run each April since 2001, conditions permitting, so was staggered to find, when his 10-year concession ended last year, Department of Conservation (DoC) had thrown open his event to all-comers.

While McWhirter’s one of four applicants vying for a new concession, he’d been told DoC had canned next year’s race.

However, last week he learned DoC’s extended his concession one more year.

‘‘I do believe the local area manager’s been going into bat to make sure there’s that continuity, which is very important when all events are being removed from the calendar.

‘‘I’m just very grateful, as are the local communities the event passes through.’’

Next year’s event runs April 30, with entries opening 12pm on February 7.

DoC Whakatipu boss David Butt says McWhirter’s a ‘‘known quantity’’ and it made sense for him to run another event in the interim before a new concession’s decided.

‘‘It doesn’t affect the tender process at all — it won’t change the outcome of that.

‘‘It would be a real shame for the community if there wasn’t an event in the Routeburn until next summer,’’ Butt says.

McWhirter’s hoping he’ll hear about the new concession by the time of this event.

‘‘I’m certainly hopeful the concession gods will shine down.

‘‘Our government’s big on protecting heritage and culture — well, after 20 years, there’s a bit of culture there.’’

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