Take a walk on the southern side: 'Great' Hump Ridge Track
People of Tuatapere have described Hump Ridge Track's Great Walk announcement as a "great opportunity."
At the unveiling, Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage said that the track would be "a fantastic addition" to the nine existing Great Walks.
The track is a 61km loop, but it will now undergo a $5 million upgrade, to bring it up to Great Walk status. It also means the walk will be extended from two nights to three.
It is a development that has local business owners, such as Last Light Lodge owner-operator Craig Rutland, feeling excited about the future.
"It's a town of around 600 people. It's predominantly forestry, and dairy farming. And the track has been a small proportion of tourism in the area, but it's a very short window of a season because everyone wants to do the track over summer.
"Great Walk status for Tuatapere changes the dynamics and the length of the season and the ability to hold staff longer."
But Mr Rutland was not concerned about potential impacts on the community.
"I don't see Tuatapere becoming a Kaikōura or Queenstown, or even a Te Anau.
"We will never grow to that extent, but it gives us huge benefits in terms of tourist numbers."
Track belongs to town 'in unique way'
Greg Wilson came to Tuatapere about three years ago and has ended up writing a guidebook on the southern half of Fiordland, Unexplored Fiordland, a region he said was often overlooked.
"The Hump Ridge track belongs to the town in a unique way in that the townspeople initiated it, built it, and have run it for 20 years now.
"Having it as a Great Walk status brings people in regardless, and then we can build from that as a town. I think that's a good thing."
The track will join other famous walks, like the Whanganui Journey, Abel Tasman Coastal Track, and the Tongariro Northern Circuit, as part of New Zealand's 10 Great Walks.
It also brings Fiordland's total of Great Walks up to four, with the Kepler, Milford and Routeburn Tracks making up the remaining three.
"People from overseas in particular, the Great Walk is just something everyone knows, and they can access, and book."
Southland Mayor has long association with track
The change is especially significant for Southland mayor Gary Tong.
"I was actually on the very first track marking, way back when we put markers on.
"Everyone back there in the late eighties was quite proud of what they had there, from sea level to the top of the ridge.
"We just thought once people started seeing what they were seeing at the top of that ridge that there would be a rush of people. There certainly has been."
Ms Sage described the track's addition as "a significant investment" in Southland tourism.
"Great Walks showcase some of the best parts of our country and are a great way to enable more people to enjoy and be inspired by nature."
The Department of Conservation will work with the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Trust to bring the walk up to Great Walk standard. It will be modified from a two-night walk to three nights.
Hump Ridge Track was one of three finalist walks, the other two being Te Paki Coastal Track and Queen Charlotte Track.
"Te Paki, Queen Charlotte and Hump Ridge are all phenomenal walks making the decision a tough one," Ms Sage said.
DOC will continue work in the far north to progress plans to get the Te Paki Coastal Track Great Walk status.
The new Great Walk will open in late 2022, after the track upgrades are complete.