Tourist death prompts DOC change

FOUND: Yessica Asmin was swept away while crossing a swollen river along the Milford Track.
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FOUND: Yessica Asmin was swept away while crossing a swollen river along the Milford Track.

Bridges on the Milford Track will be left up for five weeks longer after a review following the death of a tourist on the track.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) will also make changes to its website and on the tracks to highlight the hazards visitors face on the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn tracks over winter.

Yessica Asmin, 22, was swept down the Pomplona Creek in May when she tried to cross it with her boyfriend and a friend.

YESSICA ASMIN: The tramper swept down a river on the Milford Track was Indonesian student Yessica Asmin, 22.
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YESSICA ASMIN: The tramper swept down a river on the Milford Track was Indonesian student Yessica Asmin, 22.

A bridge over the creek had been removed weeks earlier. 

Over summer the tracks are busy, with visitors required to book huts in advance and many guided tours in operation.

But from May conditions on the tracks change into backcountry terrain for adventure-seekers.

Eight bridges are removed from the Milford Track because of avalanche risk, and another two are removed from the Routeburn Track.

Though DOC's website was ''reasonably clear'' about the differences between summer and winter seasons, the report suggested information in marketing material referring to the summer season could contribute to a ''disconnect'' between people's perception of the conditions and the reality.

DOC conservation services director for the southern regions Allan Munn said tackling the walks out of season carried "inherent risks" but the review found DOC's systems were fundamentally sound.

"However we also know in recent years more visitors with limited experience 
appear to be choosing to walk the tracks in late April and May and we need to 
respond to this trend," he said.

The department decided to make a number of changes in response to the review.

Avalanche-prone bridges would be left in place until Queen's Birthday weekend before being removed for winter. That would mean the bridges would be in place for about five extra weeks.

Promotional material and websites would be updated to reinforce hazards in the winter season. Wardens would also be used to monitor huts on the cusp of the winter seasons.

Munn said an independent expert group would be set up to provide on-going external advice on systems for managing safety in the outdoors.

He said there was "always an element of risk in outdoor activity and ultimately visitors are responsible for their own safety".

The DOC internal review did not comment on the circumstances of Asmin's death since the incidence was being investigated by the Coroner.

The Press