Tourists face price hikes on nice hikes

Overseas visitors will be changed twice as much to visit five of New Zealand's most popular Great Walks, National reveals.

Tourists will be charged twice as much as Kiwis for visiting five of the country’s most popular Great Walks in a bid to more than double the Department of Conservation (DOC) funding for volunteer groups.  

An extra 50% will be added onto the cost of other four Great Walks and backcountry hut passes.

This morning, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry revealed that from October next year, tourists will have to pay double to tramp at Milford, Routeburn, Kepler, Abel Tasman and Tongariro.

This is expected to generate more than $4 million a year in extra revenue, which will all be funnelled to DOC’s Community Fund.

“The nine Great Walks are among New Zealand’s most popular visitor attractions but they run at a $1 million annual loss,” Ms Barry says.

In the 2016 financial year, 117,000 people visited the Great Walks, which is a 12% increase on the year prior.

Some 60% of the visitors were international tourists.

“We believe it’s fair that international visitors who experience our Great Walks pay a little more to enjoy our landscape and contribute to protecting our native wildlife,” Ms Barry says.

There will be no new changes for New Zealanders, she says, adding that hut charges for the Great Walks will remain low.

“National will also close a loophole which has seen international school parties book out huts without paying, by introducing a charge for teenagers and children from overseas.”

This, as well as the doubling of walk rates for tourists, is expected to bring in an additional $5.4 million a year – more than doubling DOC’s Community Fund from $4.6 million to $10 million.

That money will be used to “substantially increase the amount of money available to hard-working volunteer groups,” Ms Barry says.

“This new community funding is on top of the additional $4 million a year DOC will receive as a result of National introducing additional charges for international tourists using our Great Walks.

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