Tramper's death prompts rethink on rules

The Department of Conservation has asked the Southland Conservation Board to advise on a review of its operations on the southern Great Walks, in the wake of the death of a tramper on the Milford Track last month.

Department of Conservation Southern South Island director Allan Munn fronted the board - including several new faces after an election - and said the department would welcome input about what changes could be made.

Munn said Fiordland National Park was a wildernesses area and while the recent death of Indonesian Yessica Asmin, and German tramper Johanna Kuchelmeister in 2005, were devastating for their loved ones, the question needed to be asked if the department should put infrastructure such as bridges in place where lives were lost when DOC policy says no.

In order to keep the standards for a backcountry tramping track, infrastructure was not permitted under current policy.

However, Munn said the world had changed and DOC was obligated to revisit some of its systems.

The digital age might be having different implications for the Great Walks, he said.

"Trampers can get permits without even talking to anyone," he said.

"It appears the general [skill] level of trampers is going down. But at the same time, it appeared the expectations of the public about how they are looked after are going up."

New Southland Conservation Board member John Twidle said there could be more focus on getting people prepared for New Zealand's wilderness areas.

Alison Broad, also new to the board, said organisations promoting New Zealand and Fiordland as a destination should make sure they highlighted winter conditions as well.

Munn said DOC would look at off-season and winter operation systems on the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn tracks.

The board was asked to provide its feedback and advice.

The Southland Times