Two Queenstown Lakes tracks remain closed, DOC advises caution

by Lauren Pattemore - Sep 29, 2023

The Department of Conservation is advising visitors to be cautious on Southland and Otago tracks after last week’s wild weather and check its website for updates as some local tracks remain closed.

The Lake Sylvan Track near Glenorchy and the Mt Crichton Loop near Queenstown are two of the tracks DOC says have more significant damage are out of action for now.

Along the Milford Road, the Dore Pass carpark and the Mackay Creek campground are also closed due to washouts, as is Fiordland’s Freeman Hut due to the risks posed by a dam that formed upstream of the hut during last week's storm. 

A large slip has caused a dam to form above Freeman Burn Hut in Fiordland (Supplied: Department of Conservation).

In a written media statement, Department of Conservation South Island boss Aaron Fleming says staff have been working hard across the region, getting out and checking tracks for damage and that structures are safe.

The major impacts from last week’s rainfall on DOC tracks are from windfall, with trees and debris covering the tracks, and erosion from floodwaters.

Mr Fleming says that “for the most part” many tracks are open, but advises that people take care, and check the weather before heading out.

“Rivers may still be high and land could be unstable so people should use good judgement and don’t take unnecessary risks,” Mr Fleming says.

Meanwhile, DOC is looking for ways to build resilience across its network of infrastructure.

Mr Fleming says the organisation is preparing for significant weather events, like last week’s storm that triggered a State of Emergency in Queenstown and other places in the south, to become more frequent due to the impacts of climate change.

“Repairing and replacing assets takes time and resources. The February 2020 storm caused significant damage to tracks, huts and bridges across Otago and Fiordland.

“We’ve made excellent progress with those repairs, with the majority fully reopened but still have work almost four years later.”

In the latest media update from the Queenstown Lakes District Council from September 24, the council announces the Frankton Trail has reopened, as has Ziptrek Ecotours up Bob’s Peak and Brecon Street businesses, while Queenstown Cemetery has partially re-opened back to the public and Ben Lomond Reserve still has restricted access to three properties.

Main image (Supplied: Department of Conservation): DOC staff on the Upper Clutha Track near Wānaka, undertaking some post-flood repairs.

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