Photo; Volunteer Dave Eaton clearing fallen trees off the Arete Sidle track
The GWBN track maintenance programme reached 132 kms of tramping track cleared in the Tararua and Aorangi forest parks in the last 10 months..
The last tracks to be maintained, was Mt Frith track, in the Tararua foothills behind Featherston. The team realized the estimates of completing this track were a bit optimistic, once the extent of the vegetation regrowth was experienced. After 10.5 days working and 258 hours effort, the job was done.
The GWBN has a management agreement with DOC Wairarapa for the upkeep of 310 kms of tramping tracks in the forest parks. This is the majority of the backcountry network in the forest parks. Keeping tracks maintained will require an annual commitment of up to 70 kms annually. Tracks need to be recut every 3 to 6 years, depending on the vegetation regrowth.
Tracks completed todate, include the popular access tracks into the Tauherenikau vally from Kaitoke, The entire track system from the Holdsworth area (Atiwhakatu hut) thru to Mitre Flats and on up to the headwaters at Arete Forks. Also the access to the waingawa from the Barra track and also from the Lower Ruamahanga roadend. Tracks at the popular Walls Whare roadend to Totara Flats and Cone saddle were also finished. In the Aorangi Forest Park, remarking of the Aorangi Crossing has been done by the Wellington Big Sunday run group, and the over grown access from Te Kopi cleared. In the long Mangahao Valley in the Northern Tararuas, the Manawatu Tramping and Ski Club recut the 15 km track through the valley. The popular day walkers track at Mikimiki was also recut.
Effort on track upkeep so far to complete the 132 kms has been 77 days track clearing totalling 1238 hours of effort by volunteers over the last 10 months. The Stihl Scrub bar provided by local DOC has been in operation on the tracks for 380 hours. Local Stihl Shop Masterton have also generously supported the GWBN.
Nearly all of the track clearing requires the use of scrub bars to deal with the vegetation regrowth and a chainsaw for tree fall from storms and heavy snow falls.
Tracks in the upper Waingawa valley needed transport by helicopter to get equipment and track teams into these remote areas. Fortunately, funding support was provided by the Trust House Foundation who provided a grant to complete the remote Arete Sidle track. This track has the reputation of being the toughest tramp in the Tararua range, due to the rugged terrain and the accumulation of trees that had fallen on the track. A total of 5 days of heavy chainsaw work was needed to fix this track.
A team of up to 10 keen volunteers have helped so far with the track clearing, along with members of a tramping club and a trail running club. The GWBN has a membership of local tramper’s, hunters and others interested in our backcountry, who manage remote huts in our forest parks, and help with maintaining the backcountry track network. So far, 90 individuals and clubs have joined, or which 60 have indicated an interest in helping with hut or track volunteer work.
The 2022/23 summer programme begins in November, with work scheduled for tracks in the central Tararua range. Several remote tracks scheduled for work are in need of upkeep but will depend on obtaining funding.
Tracks to be maintained in the 2022/23 summer include the popular Waitewaewae near Otaki Forks, the tracks giving access to Totara Flats in the Waiohine valley. A popular destination for beginner tramper, families and school groups. Over due for upkeep is also the Renata to Elder – Alpha track in the Western Tararuas. Additionally, several tracks in the Tauherenikau, and waiohine valley that have been maintained still require clearing of tree fall by a qualified chainsaw operator. All these tracks will require additional funding to what the GWBN has availiable. Total target for track maintenance in 2022/23 is approximately 70 kms.
Local DOC Wairarapa provide an annual grant to support the hut and track upkeep members of the GWBN undertake, but is insufficient to cover the large track and hut network in out three local forest parks.
Along with the track maintenance programme, the GWBN is also funding repairs to at least four remote huts in the Tararua range, this summer.(Te Matawai, Nichols, Dorset Ridge and Alpha huts) Funding will be sought for repairs to one other hut (Burn hut).
The GWBN was previously the Tararua Aorangi Remutaka Huts Committee Inc, with a membership of 15 tramping and hunting clubs that managed all 47 of the non-booked and Serviced backcountry huts in our local forest parks. This group was formed 30 years ago, and was the first partnership of its kind with DOC where backcountry users managed a major network of huts.
Want to become a free member of the GWBN? Check out our registration page at our registration page here