Nature of Things – August 2014

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You can read more later in this newsletter about the changes we’re looking at around membership. Thanks for your feedback on the membership categories – we’ve made some minor tweaks in response. We would also like your views around the requirements to join the club, particularly the two-trips requirement. Feel free to drop me an email at zn.gr1560757495o.cmt1560757495w@tne1560757495diser1560757495p1560757495. The committee has relatively open minds on this and we want our stance to be guided by the membership’s views.

Another issue that’s been engaging my time lately is a proposal from DOC to introduce year-round booking for some huts in the Tararuas. We only found out about this in early August, and the change was due to be introduced this week. However, there has been a stay of action after an outcry from clubs and the FMC. DOC has also offered clubs an apology for the lack of consultation.

The proposal concerns Powell, Jumbo and Atiwhakatu huts. You may be aware that DOC has carried out a trial of summer bookings for Powell and Jumbo, and the club has not opposed this because we are very familiar with the high demand for these huts over summer. We wouldn’t particularly see a problem extending summer bookings to cover Atiwhakatu, which is also extremely busy in summer. Any support for summer bookings is with the clear caveat that an annual hut pass continue to be valid for these bookings, as was the case during the trial.

However, DOC is proposing introducing bookings for Powell, Jumbo and Atiwhakatu year-round. We are opposed to this for two main reasons:

  • Booking systems reduce options and potentially compromise safety. In winter, weather conditions in the Tararuas mean trip plans are frequently altered at the last minute or during the trip, and having this flexibility to change plans is a key safety factor. This is much more crucial in winter. The club has had many unplanned nights in Powell and Jumbo during recent winters. Denying shelter to those who have not booked creates a safety issue. Similarly, we have had times when we couldn’t physically/safely make a planned night in Powell or Jumbo. A booking system creates added pressure to achieve trip plans that is not conducive to safe decision making under pressure, especially by those who are inexperienced.
  • We can support the summer booking system only because we see the demand. We simply don’t see the demand in winter. It is common to have these huts to yourself, especially in less-than-perfect conditions.

I have also recently discovered that DOC is planning to add Sunrise and Rangiwahia huts in the Ruahines to the booking system. Again, this isn’t something we would support year round and we have expressed this view to DOC. It’s easy to see this trend as the thin end of the wedge, which concerns us, as would any attempt to remove more huts from the annual hut pass. I’d welcome any feedback you have on this issue. DOC is proposing to hold a hui in late September to hear clubs’ concerns.

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