Higher standard for cows than people

January 8, 2020

A lack of loos on DoC tramping tracks is a problem that needs urgent attention.

A public toilet should be added at the Ben Lomond Saddle or the area’s impressive tourist reputation risks being flushed away, MP Hamish Walker warns.

Mr Walker, the Clutha-Southland MP, said the Department of Conservation needed to act and install the much-needed toilet.

About 35,000 people walked to the summit annually and this number was growing each year.

“As the track’s popularity continues to increase this issue will get bigger,” he said.

Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) southern convener Peter Wilson agreed with Mr Walker’s suggestion, but emphasised that the funding for the toilet should come from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, and not from Doc’s own hard-pressed resources.

It’s a timely suggestion,” Mr Wilson said.

Mr Walker said the matter “needs to be sorted now with the installation of a toilet to future-proof the track and protect the natural environment”.

The necessary infrastructure was not in place, and there was “a major environmental problem developing, with piles of human faeces and toilet paper spread across a large area, getting worse every year”, he said.

Landowners voluntarily offered access to members of the public, but the growing mess could jeopardise this access, he warned.

Mr Wilson, a former Dunedin resident who is immediate past FMC national president, said a toilet needed to be installed to prevent environmental damage at the 1326m saddle, near Queenstown. . .

Roys Peak has a  similar problem with human waste.

The property owner next to the Roys Peak Track in Wanaka has vowed to keep advocating for more toilets to be installed along the popular Department of Conservation day walk, despite the Minister for Conservation assuring him that inappropriate toileting behaviour was on her radar.

On November 25, John Levy wrote to minister Eugenie Sage asking for the “very important health issue” of only two toilets, one at the start and one at the summit on the 16km return, to be addressed.

In the past year Doc recorded 81,350 people had walked the track, an average of 222.8 people a day.

“If the Mt Roy track was a restaurant, cinema or any other business in Wanaka, the Queenstown Lakes District council would require 47 toilets, not just two,” Mr Levy said.

If anyone else tried setting up a business catering to the public with too few loos they would not get consent. If anyone else had an attraction which couldn’t cater for the number of visitors it would be required to restrict numbers or upgrade to cope with them. Why is DOC not held to the same standard?

On December 16 Mr Levy received a reply from Ms Sage, in which she acknowledged “inappropriate toileting is unacceptable and of concern” but it was a national issue for Doc and not restricted to the Roys Peak track, she said.

“Encouraging behaviour change of our visitors requires a multi-agency approach across New Zealand … there was a significant focus [last year] on promoting responsible visitor behaviour, which had a significant reach and impact,” she said.

Trying to change tourist behaviour was “asinine”, Mr Levy said.

“It is like saying we only have one toilet at the cinema or restaurant and everyone can just hold it until they get home.” . . 

Educating tourists on toileting while tramping is only a very small part of the solution. It is completely unrealistic to expect people to either hold on or carry a trowel and bury their waste on popular tracks like those up Ben Lomond Saddle and Roy’s Peak.

Last time we went up Roy’s Peak it took us 2 hours and 50 minutes to get to the top. We carried  along the ridge, up Mount Alpha then down to Spotts Creek, finishing in the Cardrona Valley where we’d left a car the night before.

This is the Skyline Track which the DOc website says takes 10 to 11 hours.

This challenging tramp begins with the track to Roys Peak (1578m). From the peak, follow the ridgeline towards Mt Alpha (1630m). A short narrow section of track around rocks before the climb to the highest point has a steep drop off on one side and requires care when crossing.

From Mt Alpha the track descends through snow tussock to a 4WD farm track before reaching a signed junction. A poled track from this junction drops down into Spotts Creek then out to the Cardrona Valley Road and car park. Though this description has the track starting with Roys Peak Track, the Skyline Track can be walked in either direction.*

We did the tramp in 7 1/2 hours, our son-in-law did it last week in a bit more than half that time.  But even that would be too much without at least one loo stop for most people, especially if it’s a hot day and you’re making sure you stay hydrated.

These are DoC tracks and it’s their responsibility to ensure that they’re not polluted with human effluent, in exactly the same way that farmers have a legal responsibility for dealing with effluent from dairy sheds – with very expensive consequences should they get it wrong.

As it stands, there’s one standard for tourists and another much higher one for stock and for the sake of both human and environmental health, that is simply not good enough.

* The Skyline Track can be walked in either direction but I’d advise starting at Roys Peak, even though it’s a steeper climb than going the other way.  There are some steep and scrabbly stretches between Roys Peak and Mount Alpha and it’s easier going up these than down. Once at the top of Alpha it’s a reasonably gentle descent into the valley which is much easier on joints and braking muscles than the steep one down from Roys Peak.


Rural round-up

January 6, 2019

Niche winegrowers put valley on the map – Hamish Maclean:

New signs welcome drivers on State Highway 83 to wine country. Waitaki Valley North Otago, New Zealand’s newest, smallest wine region, is home to boutique vineyards that many — even in Otago — do not know about.

But just as the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand approved the Waitaki Valley Winegrowers Association’s application for a geographical indication — used internationally to promote and protect the reputations of wines’ places of origin — a third cellar door opened in the valley in December. 

And the owners of River-T Estate Wines are committed to telling the region’s story. With 11,000 vines — pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris and a “just planted” gewurztraminer — producing 1500 cases, fourth-generation horticulturist Murray Turner and his partner Karen Tweed know River-T Estate Wines and the wines the valley produces are considered “niche”. . .

A threat to hort exports – Peter Burke:

While horticultural exports rise in value, there are concerns that this growth is being impeded by a mix of tariff and non-tariff barriers.

The state of the sector and the changes occurring there are reviewed in detail in the two-yearly report of the Horticultural Export Authority (HEA).

Chief executive Simon Hegarty says the industry has maintained momentum despite two challenging years in international trade and at home, notably because of the weather. . .

Review of access satute welcomed – Guy Williams:

A mandatory review this year of the statute underpinning the Walking Access Commission is timely, Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) president Peter Wilson says.

Mr Wilson said the commission had done a good job in the past decade but there was plenty of scope for improving its legislative framework. That included a register of “past or potential access issues” that would place an obligation on government agencies to better consider opportunities for improving public access to the outdoors.

The commission’s role includes resolving disputes over public access to the outdoors, negotiating new access and providing the public with information and maps.

The Walking Access Act was passed into law a decade ago with a clause requiring it be reviewed in 10 years. . .

Survival of the honesty stall – Alice Angeloni:

For decades they were a common sight on many Kiwi highways, but honesty boxes have been targeted by the not so honourable.

The roadside stalls, which rely on passing customers to pay the correct amount, advertise a range of goods – from fresh lemons and blueberries to walnuts and lilies.

And while small thefts are commonplace, one grower-family was targeted with a spate of $100 per day thefts. . .

Farmer padlocks gate to swimming hole after nappies found on riverbank – Rachael Kelly:

A northern Southland farmer has padlocked a gate leading to a popular swimming hole after finding soiled nappies on the riverbank.

Waikaia farmer Ray Dickson took the action to cut access to a spot known locally as Roly’s Rock, at the edge of the popular holiday town, after finding nappies in grass on the riverbank on December 29.

“It really p….. me off. . . 

No-deal Brexit will be nightmare for farmers, warns Michael Gove

Farmers will face a grim barrage of export tariffs, increased haulage costs, paperwork and looming labour shortages in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Michael Gove warned yesterday.

He painted a nightmare scenario for Britain’s food producers as he urged fellow MPs to back the prime minister’s Brexit deal
.

“It’s a grim but inescapable fact that in the event of a no-deal Brexit the effective tariffs of meat and sheep meat would be above 40 per cent. In some cases well above that,” Mr Gove told the Oxford Farming Conference
. . .


Let’s look at all public land

June 16, 2014

Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) have launched a campaign to get better protection for  conservation stewardship lands. 

” . . . They are our Forgotten Lands and make up most of the land managed by DOC outside of our national parks and reserves. They include magnificent mountains, forests and coastal areas that we should expect to be safe, such as The Remarkables near Queenstown and the Coromandel Peninsula forests”, said FMC President, Robin McNeill.

Stewardship lands make up 30% of all the land managed by DOC and they have been overlooked by politicians since DOC was formed in 1987.

“In the last few years, Meridian Energy came close to drowning the Mokihinui Valley;Bob Robertson wanted to bulldoze his way through the Snowdon Forest for a monorail and Solid Energy started to mine the Denniston Plateau”, said Mr McNeill. “Because they are not in national parks or reserves, businesses wrongly think they aren’t valuable. Some of these lands should be in national parks”. . .

He could be right, it’s possible some of that land should be in National Parks.

But it’s also possible some land in National Parks shouldn’t be and that some land under DOC management shouldn’t be in public ownership.

It would be good to have a comprehensive look at all publicly owned land and determine whether it has conservation or other values which justify continued public ownership or whether it could be sold.

The money gained from the sale could be put to better use such as taking better care of land which ought to remain publicly owned.


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