The end of tourism?
An interesting Australian article that's relevant to our own experience with overseas visitors and how their sheer numbers have the potential to overwhelm our backcountry resource. "Tourism operators are being told to focus on relationships rather than destinations, or risk repeating the mass-tourism mistakes of Barcelona and Venice. Key points: Tourist operators are finding travellers want to have a positive impact upon communities and the environment Denmark now shuns the term 'tourist' in favour of short or long-term resident People-to-people connections have been found to lead to repeat visitation Stewart Moore, the CEO of Earthcheck, said backlash against mass-tourism globally shows the industry has been more concerned with marketing than destination management." https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-28/untourist-movement-kicks-against-global-mass-tourism/11344940
american long trails have vastly greater no's of volunteers than on the TA theres no comparison between the standard of their trails and the TA... the appalachian trail and the pacific crest trail have vastly greater numbers of people living around the trail area... and vastly greater numbers of locals walking the trails... the TA has become largely a trail for foreigners... i've followed a lot of foreign TA walkers online, and most leave once finished or do something other than volunteer trail building, being a hut warden doesnt do much to help maintain the TA ... and its free accommodation for them..
Yes, it was an American TA walker who suggested to me that someone could set up a volunteer network for TA trail maintenance.
TA was never really a track. It was always a collection of tracks glued together with a few additional bits as required. The result is no 2 parts are the same from boring beach and road walks right up to serious routes that struggle to be called tracks. A couple of the river crossings are swims as often as they are fords
the TA was a compromise, it was designed to be a tour of a variety of experiences in NZ, from coastline, mountains, towns. there was also the question of how hard do you make it? they deliberately kept it out of the more rugged areas of NZ , to avoid issues around people needing a lot of rescuing, having serious accidents or dying... hence you end up with long road bashes. farmland... monotonous areas... tracks of variable quality and marking... the money was never there to bring it all up to a similar standard.. its a hotch potch of maintenance as funds or volunteers allow... given the areas it goes through of low population and that arent tramping areas, its hard to get the volunteers onboard.. i was walking part of it in the waikato one day, walked across a foot bridge on farmland to find it was ringed off with electric fences and no gate... the farmer had agreed to have he walking track through his land and the track was there before the TA, but either he forgot about needing to keep a path for walkers or didnt tell his staff.
I figure exactly what it is or what it's meant to be depends on who you talk to. Go back to the 70s and I doubt many who advocated for it imagined an ongoing stream of international tourists, and yet its official "completion" somehow coalesced with easy visitor access to NZ, and the growth of an international movement of people who go out of their way to find long trails to walk. That's resulted in lots of people here who see Te Araroa quite differently, whether as an annoyance or as a business opportunity. For me, I don't personally care about walking the length of NZ in that way, but the big thing with Te Araroa is the precedent it sets for establishing and retaining walking connectivity. It causes governments and councils to talk to each other more and have combined strategies, and it creates reasons to advocate and work on better access through private land. I hate it when I set out to walk somewhere and discover that what might have been the main practical walking route has been usurped and taken over for vehicles. Either walkers are blocked off completely because roads made no provision for them, or it's necessary to follow a stupidly wide path at a low gradient that's optimised for people to push down an accelerator and follow at high speed. With Te Araroa, you at least know that if two places you want to get between are along it, there's an official recognition of trying to keep a practical walking route open and available. It's not perfect everywhere, but you sort of know that in places where it's not perfect, like lengthy road walking, there's still an intent to make it work better. I think it'd be awesome if we had a focus on establishing other unbreakable priority-walking corridors cris-crossing through other parts of the country, too, but considering how hard it is just to keep Te Araroa connected I'm not sure of the chances.
theres no standard for marking the tracks, it can be pretty vague trying to find the trail. you need good navigation skills in places and the trail notes arent that accurate...
The more I read about TA the less attractive it sounds. If I do another long hike it will be the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia, one of the best laid out trails in the world, if not lacking a bit of scenery. It's pretty ideal other than the f'ing Tiger Snakes!
The TA was always a compromise. A great idea but not well enough funded so they worked with what they had. The result is a lot of existing trails stitched together with some consideration about trying not to make any of it too hard or too boring. They have avoided roads as much as possible but also avoided the really difficult bits in the Alps. It has ended up a nice tourist walk through NZ giving a good overview of the country but it certainly isnt all the country has to offer. Funding would fix a lot of the problems ie overcrowded huts no camping in places where a campsite would be a good idea etc but the nature of it makes it hard to charge people for doing it. Maybe a souveneer shop at each end selling Tearoha 2019 tee shirts at $80 each might help
it will never get the funding it needs for the increasing numbers going through... its too long and needs too much money.. too many huts will need replacing, too many miles of tracks will need upgrading so
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