DOC Challenged Over Overgrown Coast Walking Tracks

by Lois Willams on “Newsroom (abridged)

Neglected, overgrown and hazardous walking and biking tracks are raising concerns on the West Coast writes Lois Williams in “Newsroom.” 

Rumblings of discontent are growing over the state of popular walking tracks on the West Coast, and the failure of the Department of Conservation (DoC) to repair and maintain them.”

While major tracks like the Paparoa Trail are open and in good nick, some shorter, more accessible walking and biking tracks on conservation land from Buller to South Westland have been closed for more than a year.  

DoC’s West Coast territory stretches from Karamea to Haast and the department is responsible for 331 tracks, ranging from short walks through to multi-day options.

It says only seven tracks are currently closed. But disgruntled locals say many other trails are so neglected they pose risks for the unwary, and the ones that remain closed are among the most important for local economies.  

Lack of Care

North of Greymouth, Rapahoe hotelier and mountain biker Steve Roberts says it’s the same story up and down the Coast road.

“There’s just a lack of care and maintenance on the tracks. In Buller, Charming Creek is closed at one end and so is Tiropahi Charleston. The Bain Bay walk at Mitchells has had the bridges closed so that one’s also out … it’s not a good look for the coast, or for DoC,” he said.

At the Reefton Visitor Centre, where council brochures extol the attractions of local mountain-bike trails, staff field regular calls from groups asking which tracks are open writes Newsroom’s Lois Williams.

And when they learn their favourites are closed – they take their bikes and their dollars elsewhere.

Until a couple of years ago, the small West Coast town with its old mining roads and native forest trails, was becoming something of a weekend Mecca for cyclists from other regions.

So much so that the Tour Aotearoa cycle brevet donated $50,000 to DoC to build a bridge on one route.

But Jo Newburry, president of the Reefton Mountain Bike Club, says five of the six key tracks people want to ride are reaching the point of being unrideable for the average cyclist, and not because of storm damage.

Hidden Risk

The overgrown tracks now pose hidden risks for riders, Newburry says.

But the tracks are still being advertised as suitable for intermediate level bikers, she says.

Newburry and other track users offered to help DoC maintain their local tracks, as volunteers, she says.

“But DoC turned us down – said that wouldn’t be possible. Then they asked if we’d like to help them maintain the Paparoa  Track instead. We couldn’t believe it.”

The neglect of the tracks is especially galling for those who laboured over decades to build and maintain them.

Former DoC ranger Lindsay Barrow, who was one of those workers, says years of hard work and millions of dollars went into developing the track network known as the Great Goldfields Journey in Victoria Forest Park.

DoC also invested in the historic gold-town sites, building huts and even rebuilding old quartz stamping batteries, Barrow says.

“Now with all the tracks closed, who the hell can see them – it’s just disheartening. I’m wondering what I worked for, for 40 years,” Barrow says.

Footnote. (1) Readers can donate or subscribe to Newsroom. Newsroom has a team of highly experienced journalists – arguably the best in NZ –  among them Rod Oram, Melanie Reid, Steve Braunias, Mark Jennings, Tim Murphy and several more.

(2) The full article can be read at 


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3 Responses to DOC Challenged Over Overgrown Coast Walking Tracks

  1. "West Coaster" says:

    I suspect that DOC is neck deep in its own bureaucracy bog. I wonder how much money DOC has spent on aerial 1080 drops which DOC has plastered the West Coast with. There’s a big, bold irony here. The eco-toxin is killing insects and birds, DOC is meant to be protecting. Does DOC’s right hand know what the left is doing?

  2. Lew says:

    It would seem to me the DoC is only interested in maintaining tracks they can make money out of ie the great walks. Wouldn’t the doubling of hut fees add to the coffers to enable track maintenance or does the DoC not have the staff able to carry out simple track maintenance.Also I’m sure if the DoC didn’t piss so many people off there would be many volunteers more than able to assist with track maintenance but then again rules and regulations would stymie some such as even though unless you have a ticket to use a chainsaw after 40 years using one your not allowed.
    Millions of $s are spent on poisoning the Coast why not use some of that money to maintain tracks that competent trappers can use and avoid poisoning our native wildlife but no that would be to simple.

  3. Dr. Charlie Baycroft says:

    Everything changed for the worst when people in government departments were allowed to pretend they were managing businesses.

    Business is transactions between willing buyers and sellers of goods and services but politicians and bureaucrats cannot understand this because they never have to provide goods or services to willing buyers.

    The people who try to manage DOC as a business enterprise are no longer managing these resources for the benefit of the people who actually own them (all of us).
    They are selling access to customers who will pay for it but also receiving our money because they cannot find enough willing buyers of this access to our public property.

    There is no “DOC land” and DOC is not a business.
    It is just a government agency, funded by the people, to manage our communal property for the benefit of the people of New Zealand.

    Taxpaying NZ workers provide over $635 MILLION DOLLARS of funding for DOC.
    In case you do not understand such big numbers, that is a heck of a lot of our money!

    What value are we receiving in return for so much money?

    The politicians we hire to manage our government enterprises are supposed to ensure that we receive real value for what we pay. Do you think they are?

    It is time more people took responsibility for how their money is being managed by the politicioans they elect and the bureaucrats that are supposed to be serving them.

    Those who are concerned about what they get for what they are forced to pay might like to reconsider which political parties they have been voting for and change their habits in October.

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