While we’re all in lockdown, what better way to pass the time than by settling down with a good book? There’s no doubt that Coronavirus, or Covid-19, will significantly change the course of our society. It’s up to us to make sure those changes are as positive as possible. Here are some great reads to get you thinking about a better future.
1. Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements
This collection of short stories, collated by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown, calls itself ‘speculative fiction’. It comes in the form of imaginings from worlds without capitalism, with more justice, peace and compassion. Inspired by and named after science fiction writer Octavia Butler, these hopeful glimpses of a radically different future provide a compass to get us through these uncertain times.
2. 2040: A Handbook for Regeneration
Damon Gameau’s beautiful 2040 is an exploration of what might happen if we put our minds to creating a low-carbon world full of community, connection and renewal. Realistic but hopeful, both a practical manual and a source of inspiration, this book is an excellent partner to the documentary by the same name (great for whiling away some more lockdown time).
3. Hope in the Dark
Rebecca Solnit has written extensively about climate change, feminism and social justice. In this collection of essays, she combines her years of involvement in activism with wide-ranging lessons from change-makers throughout history to make a strong case for hope as a guiding and essential force when building better futures. An amazing read to remind you that despair rests on knowing exactly what happens next, and that beautiful things can arise from the unknown.
4. Blessed Unrest:How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
Whether you want to stop oil drilling, end plastic pollution, clean up our rivers or make sure our oceans are protected, it can often feel like you’re working in isolation. Environmental and social issues can seem like they don’t have much crossover. But in Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken weaves together the stories of hundreds of different grassroots groups and NGOs, showing that the work we do benefits each other’s causes and sparks change as one diverse movement. Together, we’re powerful.
Remember, to have the best chance at slowing the spread of coronavirus and keeping our friends and whānau healthy, we need to be staying home as much as possible. And having a stack of inspiring books to keep you going makes it a whole lot easier!
Tell us in the comments what’s on your reading list and why.
The Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic needs our attention right now, but recovery measures could be part of the solution to the climate emergency.
Right now, the coronavirus pandemic is the global priority. We all need to work together to save lives, look after each other and keep our communities strong. But, as Governments around the world take steps to smooth the economic shock of Covid-19, we have an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild our society in ways that tackle the ongoing climate, inequality and biodiversity crises. With the right recovery strategy, this could be the moment we take the measures that solve the climate crisis at the same time we work to protect our people and communities from this one.
This could be the turning point.
We are now all facing challenges on a scale that would have been unimaginable only a few months ago. All over New Zealand, people frightened for the health of their loved ones are also worrying how they will pay their rent, feed their families and keep their jobs or businesses going.
The coming days and weeks will be tough.
In the short term, every effort must be targeted at protecting those who need it most.
But once we are past the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will still have a climate crisis to tackle, oceans to protect, and forests to save. One thing’s for sure – Greenpeace will not lose sight of that, our work continues.
Greenpeace has a long history of reacting and adapting to changing world events – and that is what we will do now. We will find ways to continue to have an impact and to influence governments and corporations as events unfold.
During this time, the government will inject billions into the economy to keep it afloat.
This is a huge opportunity.
We have the opportunity to direct that money towards clean industries, to set in place a greener economy, and create a more resilient system that puts people and planet first.
The government can go beyond protecting what exists today to providing an economic stimulus package to help us build a new tomorrow.
We will soon be in one of those rare moments when left and right both agree on the need for large-scale state intervention. And it’s happening against a backdrop of climate change — history’s biggest-ever market failure. This is where intervention becomes necessary, not just for our prosperity but for our survival.
So when governments intervene in a big way to jump-start the recovery, it’s important the support they provide isn’t just a temporary crutch for the big corporations propelling us towards the next crisis.
The normality we were used to won’t pop back into existence without a push, and as we’re going to be pushing, let’s choose a direction to push in.
There is a risk that the high-emissions industries, with easy access to ministers, will have their hands out for government support. If given, this support will sink us deeper into the crisis they have caused.
Decisions are being made now on how we will spend our collective wealth rebuilding the economy, so let’s be clear about what we want from the deal.
Bailouts and stimulus funds need to be tied to social benefits – if we’re paying for companies to provide continued employment, make that a clause in the contract. And where there is potential demand for transport, energy or other goods, let’s fill the gaps by supporting companies that can provide low-carbon solutions that solve two problems for the price of one.
When we’re building houses, let’s make them zero carbon houses, equipped with solar panels and batteries.
When we design government schemes to get laid off workers back into work, let’s give them decent jobs with a real future, in factories, farms and offices that are designed to be sustainable in our carbon-constrained reality. And, importantly, jobs that won’t need a second bailout to cope with tightening restrictions on climate pollution.
Last week, International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol urged political and financial leaders to drive global climate action through their economic stimulus packages. As well as promoting economic recovery, Birol suggests they could also accelerate the transition to cleaner energy sources.
Let’s do this.
Despite the trauma we are all going through, this is the time we must think about it. If we ignore it now, those lobbyists may get their way and use the stimulus to lock us into a disastrous high-carbon future that we were just starting to steer away from. And that mistake will cost the economy many billions of dollars as well as many lives and livelihoods.
By using the stimulus as part of a low carbon transition plan, a Green Covid Response, we could emerge from beneath the dark cloud that has settled over all of our lives with a new contract between government, business, people and the planet. One that would protect our health, our homes and our environment. A way forward that would ensure a future for our children.
Many people will soon suffer unbearable loss. Some already have. The priority in this moment must be saving lives and livelihoods. The short-term is frightening and uncertain, and the short term is where we all live.
These are not the end times. If the government gets the stimulus wrong, it could accelerate us towards them, certainly in terms of climate change. But if we work together to help them get it right, this could be the moment we use what we have learned about how fragile and interconnected we all are to solve the climate crisis at the very moment we escape from this one.
In the meantime, let’s take care of ourselves, and each other. There are so many ways to support communities at a time of crisis – both online and in real life. We’ve made a list below of useful organisations and resources for you to investigate, including ways that you can give or receive help at this time.
The connectedness of our planet has never been more clear. And whatever happens, we’re all in this together.
To fight Covid-19 the World Health Organisation has told all countries: test, test, test. Around the world, doctors are testing thousands of people for the virus every day. But what you may not know is that our ability to do such tests is thanks to the mysterious depths of the ocean.
When I picture the ocean I normally imagine the rich waters at the surface or near the coast, pods of dolphins breaching the surface or schools of fish catching the sunlight. We imagine whales and turtles, all the wonderful life we’re lucky enough to see. But in its depths the ocean has hidden kingdoms of geothermal activity, that are home to strange creatures like cutthroat eels and red-lipped tubeworms. Here live marine organisms that thrive under incredible heat and pressure, in noxious gases and with zero oxygen. While these places might seem like the most inhospitable environments on the planet, scientists believe that the deep sea has some of the most biodiverse places on Earth.
But Covid-19 isn’t the first time the deep sea has helped humanity. Compounds found here have given us new treatments for cancer. Scientists believe there could be new antibiotics developed from what we find in the deep sea, which will be crucial in our fight against superbugs. These unstudied depths could also hold the key to understanding the beginnings of life on earth.
There is still so much to discover here.
We know less about what lies in the depths of the ocean, than we know about the surface of the moon. Far off our coastlines – further than our freestyle stroke, bowrider, or surf board can go – lies the unfathomable enormity and mystery of the high seas. Less than 0.0001% of it has ever been scientifically explored. Imagine what we could find there, if we were given time.
But unfortunately, there are others who are interested in the deep sea and seabed.
New technology means the seabed is now within the range of big mining companies too. These same areas that could have so much potential for the good of all humanity, also hold rare earth metals and minerals that could be sold for profit. And mining companies are already pushing to get their hands on them.
The race is on for seabed mining companies to claim the new frontier, and start extracting.
And there’s little to no protection for these places, far out of reach for most of us. International waters are under an ad-hoc patchwork of laws that leaves most of the ocean unprotected. This is essentially lawless territory, where those with the means to take from them can and will.
What is seabed mining?
Seabed miners suck up the seafloor from the depths and pump it up to a ship above, they sift out the desired materials, and discard all the unwanted matter back to the seafloor, creating sediment plumes. The science shows that not only do they decimate the areas extracted, the dumping of the unwanted matter smothers the surrounding seafloor and blocks the light filtering from above. This has enormous consequences for all marine life and for fisheries.
The ocean is a complex ecological system, providing the oxygen that we breathe, regulating our climate and feeding over a billion people worldwide. Mass disruption of its depths is a risk for all life on Earth, not just that in the immediate vicinity. The biodiversity down there may not always be beautiful, but it is still worthy of our protection.
If we have learned anything from our industrial history, it’s that when we interfere with nature, we reap the consequences. Around the world we are dealing with the fallout of this take, take, take mentality, one that has been the residing thought process of the past century. We are learning now how very wrong we were.
As we scramble to respond to emergencies of our own creation, be they the climate crisis or the associated biodiversity breakdown, it is beyond belief that we would open Pandora’s box to seabed mining and usher in a new era of destruction. This is especially absurd considering how these ocean ecosystems have already been shown to benefit humanity.
Despite there being no regulation or framework for environmental protection, seabed mining companies already have early exploration permits in international waters. Right now, companies are attempting to get permits to seabed mine in New Zealand waters. Elsewhere, huge multinationals are pressuring other nations to give over access to their seas, all to line their pockets.
How can we protect the oceans?
Around the world calls are growing for a halt on seabed mining, with everyone from concerned concerned environmental groups to pacific nations like Vanuatu and Fiji resisting this new and dangerous industry. Papua New Guinea, an early issuer of licenses to seabed mine, is now backtracking, and calling for a moratorium on the practice. In the last few days the U.K has also made commitments to wait for more science before proceeding with mining, with prominent environmentalist David Attenborough also warning against rushing in.
Attenborough said: “The rush to mine this pristine and unexplored environment risks creating terrible impacts that cannot be reversed. We need to be guided by science when faced with decisions of such great environmental consequence.”
In times of crisis, we must all decide which path we want to take. Do we want to sanction more destruction of biodiversity, a new generation of extractive industry, and more profit at any cost? Or will we take a stand to protect nature, and preserve these places for the common good of planet Earth and of humanity?
We are living through uncertain times. Covid-19 has thrown millions of lives into chaos. But we know from experience that even through these times some companies will continue their march towards destroying our Earth and our oceans. For all our sakes, I truly hope that in these trying times, we do not lose sight of the fact that protecting these vital ecosystems is inextricable from protecting the health of humans and all life on Earth.
What you can do at home
From the very beginning, Greenpeace has campaigned to protect our oceans. The most recent campaign focus has been on protecting international waters, or the ‘High Seas,’ which saw us travel from Pole to Pole over the last year. International waters make up the vast majority of the global oceans, but they face a multitude of threats. From deep sea mining to destructive fishing, climate crisis to pollution, the oceans are under threat like never before. And as discussed above, the current approach for protecting them is so fragmented, it simply isn’t working. Time is running out to make sure we do not lose the greatest common good we have.
The agencies responsible for the management of one of the Waikato’s most popular walking trails are urging the public to stay off the track during the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown.
Date: 27 March 2020
The Hakarimata Summit Trail is managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Waikato District Council (WDC). The track is normally heavily used by walkers and runners, and can be accessed from points near Huntly and Ngaruawahia.
On Tuesday, 24 March, New Zealand country moved to Covid-19 Level 4 and all New Zealanders were asked to stay home to break the virus’ chain. Exercise should be undertaken in residents’ local communities.
DOC asked the public not to venture into the great outdoors, particularly well-used tracks such as the Hakarimata Summit Trail.
However, information gleaned from recent social media posts shows people are ignoring the advice and continuing climb to the Hakarimata summit.
David Speirs, Incident Management Team Lead for DOC in the Waikato, says people continuing to use the track are putting themselves and others at risk. He is encouraging everybody to stick to the lockdown plan and consider the impacts of your actions on the community you live in, including your family.
“We know the Hakarimata track is popular and loved by many Waikato people, but this is not the time to be using it,” Mr Speirs says.
“The track is too narrow for people to keep that two-metre social distance, and the handrail is exactly the sort of surface the Covid-19 virus could sit on, ready to infect the next person touching the rail.
“It’s unacceptable people are clambering over barriers we’ve put in when they’ve been explicitly told not to use the track” Mr Speirs says.
Merv Balloch, WDC Emergency Controller echoed Mr Speirs’ message to the public.
“We are at COVID-19 Level 4 which means you may go for a walk or exercise from your home; this does not include travelling to any other location and you must keep a two-metre distance from people outside your ‘bubble’ (those you are living with) at all times.”
Today (Friday, 27 March) the Hakarimata Summit Track entrance was sealed and signs were put in place reminding the public not to use the track.
DOC is moving to close all huts and campsites and asks no one uses these until further notice.
Date: 24 March 2020
DOC is today moving to close all huts and campsites and asks no one uses these until further notice says DOC Director-General Lou Sanson.
“People should no longer stay at DOC huts and campsites as these are not suitable for use during alert levels 3 and 4. They should also avoid using facilities such as toilets as it will not be possible to service these facilities and hygiene will be compromised,” says Lou Sanson.
“For everyone’s safety, at alert level 4 we strongly recommend that people should not head into the backcountry or remote areas, and we recommend they don’t undertake outdoor activities (such as adventure sports or hunting) that would expose them to higher levels of risk. This is because normal search and rescue operations will not be running, hut wardens will not be in place, communications may be limited, and we do not want to place unnecessary strain on health services.”
The Game Animal Council have also put out advice to hunters to “do the right thing and stay at home”, acknowledging that this comes during the roar.
This does not mean you are confined indoors says Lou Sanson.
“Time spent in nature feeds the soul, keeps us fit and calms the mind. We must all look after ourselves and loved ones during this time.”
“It is ok and recommended you head outdoors in your family or self-isolating units. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, choose a quiet location close to home, keep a safe distance from others and follow all government guidance.”
“While rangers won’t be placing signs at, or checking every hut and campsite, we expect the public to do the right thing for their safety and the safety of others. The majority of DOC rangers will be self-isolating like the rest of us and need to focus on their wellbeing and the wellbeing of those close to them,” says Lou Sanson.
“However, DOC will be monitoring the situation over the coming days and weeks and may respond in specific situations, should safety issues arise in conservation areas.”
Track updates, closures and safety advice are on our website.
If you want to speak to someone about your plans, contact the nearest visitor centre.
The consequences of the covid-19 pandemic are – and will be – defined by choices. Those choices should be based upon values, not value: compassion, courage and cooperation. Those have always been ours. Lets lean into them now.
The struggle to contain the coronavirus is our number one priority as people and as an organisation. Life and death decisions are not only being made by doctors and nurses but by each and everyone of us as we practice physical distancing. Together, let’s make the right choices.
Greenpeace is a family. Like every member of this family, we are facing our own coronavirus challenges. We both live in countries that have adopted us, Germany and France, from the US and Argentina. Our worry for our parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews is compounded by distance and by health systems that might not be able to help them. It is hard to find balance in the emotional turbulence. But like all of you we find connection. We have discovered that in crisis our living rooms have become places to dance with our children and partners, revelling in the comfort of old and favourite songs! We hope you can find your balance, connections, and outlets.
We should all take the needed time: putting our families and our communities first. To take care of our children and the sick. And of course ourselves.
We are witnessing many acts of courage, compassion, and community that provide inspiration and underline the power of people. We can see all around a resolute desire to not only survive but to thrive. Let us continue to join the chorus of collaboration and celebration of the best of humanity in the face of adversity.
Let’s ensure that the stories we tell are of compassion for the most vulnerable, of coming together: countering the fear and blame.
While leading with compassion, let us also be vigilant.
In crisis, as we know the impossible becomes possible. For better or worse.
We all understand that in tackling the acute public health crisis and associated economic shocks, choices are being made that will have a profound impact on the chronic climate emergency.
We must be vigilant against attempts to use the workers they normally exploit in poverty wages or exposed to deadly substances, day in day out, to capture and misdirect public support. The so-called ‘shock doctrine’ is in play, trillions of dollars, euros, yen are being pumped into the economy to try and inoculate it from the impact of the virus. Rules without consent are being adopted.
We must advocate for investment in the future. Rather than looking to the past to explain our current predicament, we should be looking to the future to see what must be done. A future that is open, cooperative, egalitarian, peaceful, in harmony with nature, and with public good as a driving force.
This virus does not have a nationality, it does not have an agenda or a political affiliation, it exists to spread where, when and how it can. The only thing that can stop it is community and cooperation.
This is not a time for blame or division. There are plenty of forces in the world doing precisely that for power and profit. We must lead by example, extending our values, platform and knowledge to others, especially the most vulnerable in our society. Perhaps that means forging unusual allies, in this most unprecedented of times, or doing things outside of our comfort zones and echo chambers.
We want, need and deserve from this new chapter in our planet’s story that deep lessons are quickly learnt, root causes fully addressed, and true political leadership established.
When this pandemic passes, our collective character and future potential will be defined by the choices we made to protect the most vulnerable. Not how we protected industries. It will be strengthened by the lessons that we learn. Each and everyone of us holds a piece of the better world we need, where compassion and cooperation are the keys to a safer fairer future.
The future is being written today, let’s write it together with all of our hearts and our humanity.
A banded rail recently found dazed and confused in the Coromandel has been released back to its home after being cared for by a retired vet nurse from the Kuaotunu Bird Rescue Trust.
It all started when Anne Betty, a local from Little Bay came across a moho pererū/banded rail stumbling around seeming a bit dazed and disoriented at the back of her property one afternoon.
The following morning it was actually bumbling around right by her front porch, so she was able to quickly pick it up and take it inside. Moho pererū are usually quite a shy bird and not easy to catch, they are found sparsely throughout New Zealand, usually in wetlands, mangroves and salt marshes.
After taking the bird inside, Anne got in contact with Annemieke from the Kuaotunu Bird Rescue Trust who is a retired vet nurse. She cares for injured birds in her own time out of passion and the goodness of her amazing heart. Our local Coromandel DOC staff have a good relationship with Annemieke as people sometimes drop injured birds off to our office and they are passed onto her to for care.
As soon as Annemieke got the call, volunteer driver Neville went and picked up the injured bird. Once it arrived Annemieke couldn’t find any external injuries to explain the bird’s behaviour so she placed it in a space where it could be observed. She noticed a slight irregular gait (walking abnormality) as well as the head slightly tilting to the left. It also sometimes tripped over while walking forwards.
Annemieke suspected it could have been hit by a car or some other impact injury so it was treated with anti-inflammatories and pain relief in case of head or spinal bruising/ injury. The current drought could also have caused increased bacterial growth, like avian botulism bacterium, which if birds are exposed they can display similar symptoms. The banded rail was given fluids by crop tube before it was given any medication. This continued twice daily.
On the second day the rail needed more running space so the bird was put into an outside aviary. The bird returned to normal really quickly and was eating and drinking regularly. It was soon nicknamed Speedy Gonzales.
“Speedy’” was taken back to the DOC base a few days later and Ranger Troy released it back to Little Bay. A happy outcome for all, go well Speedy!
If you find sick, injured or dead wildlife you can ring the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Bird rescue centres can also be found around the country. Find out more: birdrescue.org.nz/rescuing-a-bird/
For the safety of visitors, volunteers and staff, DOC is temporarily closing its visitor centres to the public from today, and from tomorrow will be cancelling all hut and campsite bookings
Date: 22 March 2020
For the safety of visitors, volunteers and staff, DOC is temporarily closing its visitor centres to the public from today, and from tomorrow will be cancelling all hut and campsite bookings, says DOC Director-General Lou Sanson.
This cancellation includes all Great Walks bookings for the rest of the season (up to 30 June 2020). People will receive a full refund. Rangers will be visiting tracks and facilities, alerting people about these changes and checking people are complying.
The government has announced New Zealand is now at Alert Level 2 for COVID-19. This means the disease is contained but the risks of community transmission are growing. The Ministry of Health has provided measures for New Zealand to follow in response to the alert level.
“Social distancing is key to preventing the community spread of COVID-19. Given the risk of potential community transmission, we have decided to cancel all accommodation bookings, including Great Walks,” says Lou Sanson.
“We are also temporarily closing our visitor centres to the public for the same reason. Although the doors are closed, our staff are only a phone call or email away and can still help people who want information.”
DOC is monitoring conservation areas and facilities across New Zealand to ensure public safety and adherence to government guidelines. Non-bookable campsites and remote backcountry huts will be closed if New Zealand reaches Alert Level 3. For the time being they are still available.
Users must ensure they maintain minimum separation requirements and follow all personal hygiene guidance. DOC accommodation cannot be used for self-isolation.
“Spending time in nature is great for our mental and physical wellbeing, and we’re still encouraging people to get out there – you just have to follow the latest advice. We recommend finding your own space outside with walks and activities that take less than a day, and avoiding activities that could leave you reliant on hut use.
“While you’re out and about make sure you’re doing your part to keep yourself and others safe. Stay up to date on the latest information, follow guidance on non-essential domestic travel and minimum separation requirements, and take necessary safety and hygiene precautions.”
Visit this website for information including track updates, closures and safety advice.
When something shakes us to the core of our society, it can be hard to know what to do. Or say.
For those of you worrying about friends and whānau, for those of you with loved ones overseas, for those of you frantically scrambling to rearrange, postpone, cancel and prepare, I’m with you.
I know that for those of us for whom compassion for people and the planet is a guiding light, the reality of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic can bring up so much anguish.
The coming days and weeks will be tough.
But as New Zealanders, we’re pretty resilient. We’re used to the ground under our feet being a bit shaky (literally).
When things get tough, we pull together. We can do this.
We’ve loved hearing stories of how people are already helping each other through surviving the Coronavirus. Here are some ideas to get you started, and please, leave us a comment and share initiatives you’ve seen that make this uncertain time a bit gentler on everyone.
And as an organisation with a long history of adapting to changing world events, our work as Greenpeace continues. It’s too important not to. We will find ways to continue having an impact and influencing governments and corporations as events unfold. And we will find ways for you to help to save the planet, from home.
Earlier this week, we responded quickly to the government’s plan to inject billions into the economy in response to Covid-19. We put forward some solid suggestions for how that money could be used to put us on the path to a zero-carbon economy, cut our carbon emissions and improve life for everyone in Aotearoa. We proposed ideas around boosting funding for insulation and heating, solar and batteries on homes, and electric transport; upgrading New Zealand’s public sector and infrastructure; cash injections for sustainable agriculture production, and protecting the country’s poorest.
We then asked our supporters to help with more suggestions, and the response blew us away. Thank you for all of the detailed, thoughtful and heart-warming responses. We have read them all and are now building them into briefings we will offer to government departments and Ministers.
Among the popular ideas were:
Making it possible for households and communities to trade and gift solar power
Supporting community groups that help people grow backyard veggie gardens
A Universal Basic Income to help everyone pay for food and essentials
Big programmes to plant permanent, biodiverse, native forests
And our work continues on the things that matter. Our rivers still run dirty and our oceans continue to need vital protection. We will not lose sight of that.
We’re making sure our staff and their whānau are safe and cared for by having as many people as possible work from home for the foreseeable future. But the work goes on, even if there are a few more children and pets sighted in video meetings!
We’re privileged to have such a wide network of people committed to a better future. People like you, who aren’t afraid to show up. Whose courage and determination to believe in a kinder, greener world makes our work possible. And it’s going to take all of us to pull through.
The challenges that await us are unsettling, but they aren’t insurmountable. We know that by working together, with creativity, resilience and compassion, we can get through this together.
Mount Somers Track is a very popular 26 km circuit track located in the beautiful Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury. Due to the trail’s proximity to Christchurch and the relative ease of the walk, the 26-bed Woolshed Creek Hut and the 19-bed Pinnacles Hut were often the unwitting destinations of the ‘Weekend Surge’. This is best described as a frenzy of keen-as trampers heading up the hill on a Saturday (as many as 60 people) hoping to secure a bed at the end of their hiking day. To help combat the weekend overcrowding and the resulting frustrations, the two huts were added to DOC’s booking system on 1 October 2019.
Within 8 weeks of the online launch, at the beginning of what the Geraldine based DOC staff consider to be their summer season, bookings were 173% higher than for the same period for the 2018-2019 summer. These projections were validated when the actual figure reporting was released earlier this month, confirming 729 visitors during January, up from 420 visitors in January 2019. This includes an increase in trail-runners, day walkers and hunters utilising the area.
Staff have reported other notable benefits such as less jostling on the track, compliance checking is now much easier and record-keeping is significantly more accurate.
Rebecca (Becs) Crilly, nearing the end of her second summer season as the Lead Hut Warden for the area, echoes these benefits. “Having bookings has taken a lot of stress out of the warden role. We are able to spend more time with trampers, sharing information about the local area and interesting landmarks to visit while they’re walking. Trampers are more engaged with us too, as we’re not perceived as ‘just compliance’ anymore. The interactions are a lot friendlier now”.
Working alongside a second Hut Warden and a bevvy of volunteers, Crilly stated that including the Mt Somers facilities on the booking system had been well overdue and the response from trampers to date had been one of “overwhelming joy”.
“Trampers are now able to pace their walk and enjoy the outdoor experience without the time pressures of needing to get to the hut first. They know they have a guaranteed bed at the end. There is clear signage at both entrance carparks informing people they have to book a bed before they head up, but we won’t ever turn anyone away either. We just make it clear that bookings will always get priority. There hasn’t been any issues so far this season.”
Both the Woolshed Creek carpark and the Sharplin Falls carpark have reception, providing the opportunity for a booking to be placed from a mobile device. And further up the hill, Hut Wardens use their mobile devices to complete online check-ins, confirming exactly who is onsite.
As a direct result of having certainty of visitor numbers, Crilly says she has been able gain some more structure and productivity from her days. She plans to be available at the huts around the times walkers will start arriving and is able to schedule track maintenance activities for the quieter days.
When queried about the downsides of the booking system, Crilly reported very few. Some ‘Back Country Hut Pass’ holders are still learning the huts must be booked first although many are already familiar with the process for claiming their refund. The booking system itself has some quirks too. There is currently no self-cancellation option, meaning folks who aren’t able to make the trip become ‘no-shows’, if they haven’t rung DOC to cancel. Sometimes there is a ‘same-day booking’ glitch when using a mobile phone to book from the entrance carparks, although this is resolved quickly by the wardens at hut check-in. Another feature Crilly is happy to utilise.
“We have noticed a shift in the demographic of people who are walking too. This walk is the perfect introduction to overnight tramping. Families have confirmed accommodation so they can travel with less gear, at a pace that suits them. Woolshed really isn’t the party hut it used to be.”
Following a recent ‘Dads and Lads’ tramp, Andy Osborne agrees with this comment. He and a family friend took their respective sons (aged 7 (just) to 11) for an overnight stay at the Woolshed Creek Hut. “We knew that the hut needed to be booked prior and the system worked well. Everyone who was staying in the hut overnight had also booked, so there were no extras sleeping on the floor.”
Of the experience itself, Osborne said they walked in via Rhyolite Ridge, commenting it was “a bit tough for the boys with packs on” so they cooled off in the waterfall gorge swimming hole about 20 minutes from the hut, before heading back to the hut for the evening. “It was a great experience overall”.
DOC is continuing to improve the booking service it can provide to customers and in April all existing bookable campgrounds and huts, that sit outside the Great Walks, will transition to the new booking service. The new service provides significantly more flexibility for customers, enabling them to make an account and then have full control to book, modify and cancel their own accommodation online. It will also enable Back Country Hut Pass holders to use their passes at time of booking.
From April, bookings at campgrounds and huts for stay-dates from 1 July onwards will be made on the new application, with the existing booking system still being used to make bookings for stay-dates up to 30 June. More information is available from booking.doc.govt.nz