Tourists post tips to beat trek fees

International travellers are using social media sites to post advice online on how to illegally camp along many of the southern walking tracks.

Department of Conservation programme manager Annie Wallace said there had been two separate incidents in the past week of people caught illegally camping on the Kepler Track, and this behaviour was increasing.

Five international tourists attempted to walk an alternative route on to the Milford Track to avoid paying hut and boat fees, but ended up camping in an emergency shelter because they were not properly prepared.

Ms Wallace said the group had been fortunate to escape serious injury. "They were lucky with the weather, if it had become cold or wet it could have been a very different story."

The tourists had been charged for their illegal use of the emergency shelter, she said.

Social media sites like Facebook were causing some of the problems, with backpackers posting advice online on how to illegally camp along many of the southern walking tracks, she said.

Ms Wallace yesterday warned visitors to follow procedure and pay up on the Milford Track, for the sake of their safety.

Booked through DOC, the Milford Track hut and boat fees cost about $305 per adult, but track licence holder Ultimate Hikes charges between $1830 and $3020 for guided tramps depending on the season and accommodation option.

The cost imposed by DOC was enforced solely to pay for upkeep of the huts, preservation of the track and safety costs, Ms Wallace said.

Southland Tramping Club president Raewyne Daly said she was not aware of trampers illegally walking Milford Track, but believed anyone who did so was endangering themselves and others on the track.

The huts were there to keep trampers safe and to prevent unnecessary rescue operations, with regular checkpoints, she said.

She did not believe it was cost driving people to attempt the track on the sly, claiming the walk was reasonably priced.

"I don't think the prices are outrageous because, you know, a lot goes into the huts."

International tourists who could not afford to pay hut rates should prepare and budget better for their trip, she said.

"They come over here and they have money to spend, so they need to see if they can prioritise what they spend it on."

The Southland Times