New way over deadly creek

Years of lobbying and dogged determination

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 12/06/2014
Mistake Creek crossing
Supplied
SAFE PASSAGE: Members of the Fiordland Tramping Club cross Mistake Creek at the 'new', safer crossing. The club has been lobbying the Department of Conservation for a safe alternative for years.

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Years of lobbying and dogged determination from the Fiordland Tramping Club has finally made crossing Mistake Creek safer.

The club has just forged a high-river route dedicated to Johanna Kuchelmeister, a German tramper who was swept away in the river in March 2005.

The club believed a new crossing was the best option after requests for a walk-wire bridge were turned down by the Department of Conservation.

Club vice-president Viv Shaw said that in the interests of trying to do something positive about the dangerous crossing, the club went from supporting a three-wire bridge to finding an alternative, safer crossing.

But it still took another four years for anything to happen, and that was only through the efforts of the tramping club members, Shaw said.

With the flagging of a new route to cross Mistake Creek "not a high priority for DOC", the club members have done the job themselves.

Armed with loppers, handsaws and reels of pink flagging tape, seven club members went about creating a new high-river route along Mistake Creek to avoid the dangerous river crossing on the track.

Shaw said the club wanted DOC to endorse the new route. "In the absence of a commitment to build a new bridge, our club is prepared to do the necessary work to move the track permanently to the safer crossing," she said. "This would fit in with the department's new partnership approach."

The club has dedicated the new route to Kuchelmeister, who came from Ingoldingen, in Germany.

"We would like Johanna's family to know that some progress has finally been made," Shaw said.

DOC Te Anau conservation services manager Grant Tremain said the department was working with the Fiordland Tramping Club, and supported the club marking a new route on the Mistake Creek track to an alternative crossing point over the creek

Johanna's father, Hansjoerg Kuchelmeister, said the family was glad to hear of the new route and that some good could still come from Johanna's death.

"We are hopeful again after hearing that the Fiordland Tramping Club wants to make a new path across Mistake Creek," he said. neil.ratley@stl.co.nz

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