Queenstown is set to become home to the country’s tenth Great Walk.
Plans are afoot to create a three-day tramp route through the spectacular scenery of nearby Mount Creighton Station.
The proposed ‘Moonlight Trail’ emerges from official government documents obtained by Mountain Scene.
The documents state: “It is likely to become one of the best walks in New Zealand.”
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry’s aware her department’s working on the idea. She won’t comment further till a formal proposal is tabled - when the station’s ‘tenure review’ is finalised.
The walk will wind from Meiklejohns Bay on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road to Lake Luna, then along Moonlight Creek.
It will curve around towards Arthurs Point, before following Moke Creek to Moke Lake.
The draft proposal says it’s an outstanding opportunity for public access - and also a potential link to Te Araroa - ‘The Long Pathway’.
Officials pick it’ll become one of NZ’s most popular walks. The trail is part of a proposed trade-off between the government and the company which owns the perpetual lease for Mt Creighton Station.
The plan is for 5342ha of the station to become freehold, owned by Mt Creighton Station Ltd, with the remaining 10,461ha reverting to Crown ownership.
Shareholders in Mt Creighton Station Ltd are four American families and two Kiwi families, who intend to build multi-million lodges for themselves on the freehold.
The trail will also be built through the freehold land.
The Overseas Investment Office has rubberstamped the plan and the families are awaiting final sign-off on ‘tenure
Because the trail starts and finishes so close to Queenstown - more accessible than the likes of the Routeburn and Milford tracks - it’s likely to become one of the country’s most popular walks.
Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd says: “I’m not familiar with the specific proposal but any growth in our walking network has got to be good for us.
“I don’t see it as a competitive threat to the other Great Walks, just an alternative that would make people stay
longer or come back.”
Wakatipu Tramping Club president Judy Fotheringham says should the trail become a Great Walk it’ll be used more by tourists than locals.
“It sounds like a good idea but if it’s $55 a night huts it’ll be more for tourists.”
However, Fulbright scholar and Lincoln University lecturer Ann Brower sounds a note of warning.
She says the trail’s a good idea but strong covenants are needed to guarantee public access.
Brower questions the whole ‘tenure review’ process. Her research shows in some cases one fifth of a parcel of land sold by the Crown for $60m has since on-sold for $300m - and that’s just one side of the balance sheet.
“I would struggle to see how [tenure review] is a good thing for New Zealand,” she says.
“I think we’re losing much more than we’re gaining.”
An OIO report, obtained by Mountain Scene under the Official Information Act, says the Moonlight Trail is expected to rank “in the Great Walks category”.
“It is likely to become one of the best walks in New Zealand.”
The walk will wind through outstanding landscapes, including the seldom-visited Lake Luna, deep gorges, a working high country farm, rugged mountain peaks, and heritage mining sites featuring dams, siphons, sluicing faces, early mining huts and reservoirs.
As many as 3000 miners worked the land in its heyday.
The OIO report says: “It is located close to Queenstown and accordingly is ideally located for both day-trip walkers holidaying in Queenstown and multi-day trampers.”
Campsites and huts would be located on conservation land near Sheepyard Terrace and Dukes Tarn.