Big run on tracks

Great Walk scramble: Tramper Marie Solier and her Daughter, Agustina, walking Lake Waikareiti


A Gisborne woman says spots on the Milford Track for the coming season were gone in 60 seconds.

Department of Conservation (DoC) opened bookings for the 7480 spaces across the 186-day season, from November to April, at 9.30am on Tuesday — it says it took just three minutes for them to be snapped up.


Marie Solier says she knew it wouldn’t be easy, so ‘‘put everything in my calendar and an alarm on my phone, so I could be ready to go’’.

‘‘At 9.31am, I refreshed the page and it took less than
a minute for everything on the calendar [to be] booked,’’
she says.

When someone didn’t validate their booking, she managed to nab a spot for two about half an hour later, but had wanted four.

Another hiker who says he’s been trying to book the track for five years says it’s time for DoC to change the booking system.

Auckland’s Keith Mitchell says the way it works at the moment isn’t dissimilar to the MIQ system, and suggests a lottery system would work better.

Mr Shearer said the booking system was ‘‘powerful’’ but DoC was in discussions about improving the system.

‘‘Maybe like the MIQ system where you went into a lobby or something, or went into a queue, we could look at some thing like that.

‘‘But it doesn’t really change the system, there’s still going to be those that are quick on their fingers,’’ Mr Shearer said.

In discussion: DoC booking services manager, Ross Shearer

He encouraged trampers to explore the nine other Great Walks available and said if bookings were unavailable for huts, there may still be campsites available.

Bookings for the Routeburn Track, which opened Wednesday were not in as high demand but within an hour, peak months — February, March and April — were sold out.

As of yesterday afternoon the Lake Mackenzie and Routeburn Falls huts were close to capacity around 98% and 95% booked for the season respectively.

While the Routeburn Flats hut was about 45% booked.

On both tracks, about 80% of bookings went to Kiwis, and 20% to international visitors.