The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of New Zealand’s great walks. It’s popular with locals and tourists year round. But parking at entry and exit points is now becoming a real issue.
With around 60 carparks at each end, there are nowhere near enough spaces for the ever-growing tourist attraction.
On the Sunday of Labour Weekend, cars were backed up for 2 km along the one lane road in and out.
Now it’s a problem the Department of Conservation are looking to address before summer.
“I hear on the news of cities struggling with transport problems and infrastructure problems themselves. And yet, some of the residents of those places seem to come to the national park and expect to be able to park right outside the very beginning of the track on a busy weekend,” said Terry Blumhardt Chairperson of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing Transport and Guiding User Groups Association.
Last Easter 1800 people decided to tramp the alpine crossing in one day, creating a traffic nightmare for all said Terry Steven, a tour operator in the area. “The cars are so congested on the road, that we have had to stop several kilometres away from the end and the customers have had to walk up the road to get there. There have been accidents, cars have been run into. People park their cars in bad ways so they have been damaged,”
Now, the Department of Conservation and tour operators want to educate visitors to this spectacular part of the world, but if that doesn’t work, will have to take more drastic measures.
“People are circling the park. They’ve got it on their bucket list of things to do. So they are waiting for that blue sky day. They want to get that picture postcard of them standing on blue lakes or emerald lakes” said Paul Carr, Tongariro National Park Operations Manager.
The preferred solution is to educate visitors according to DOC and tour operators. They say expanding the car park would impact on the incredible natural beauty of the surrounding area.
“Do we infinitely expand that infrastructure? Or do we keep the place the way it is and special and just adapt the way that we use that space?”, said Mr Blumhardt
If people don’t get the message about parking safely, DoC may have to consider options such as closing the road or capping numbers on the crossing.