• On the Milford Track.
    On the Milford Track.

NZ's Department of Conservation (DOC) has given Great Walks operators notice to stop pre-booking huts for guided bushwalks.

The news has brought mixed reactions from operators and bushwalkers.

Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience guide Furhana​ Ahmad​ has been pre-booking bunks on the Rakiura Track for her clients since the booking system came in around five years ago.

She said the change will mean she can’t advertise dates with any assuredness.

“We do not know when visitors will book their tours, especially now with Covid-19 issues. The majority of New Zealanders are not pre-booking anything,” she said.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said it’s important everyone gets a fair go. “We understand that DOC has been checking commercial bookings to ensure they are meeting the conditions set out in their concession agreements, and has found some anomalies that they have asked the operators to address,” he said.

“This affects only a small number of operators and a limited number of hut nights. DOC figures show that concessionaires account for just four per cent of bookings on the Great Walks.”

The controversy had come after members of the public complained they could not book to hike on some of the more popular Great Walks like the Milford and Routeburn tracks because bookings filled up so quickly - and yet private guiding companies could pre-book beds in the public huts without having any paid customers.

This meant many bushwalkers were forced to use the tour operators to access the limited number of beds in the huts.

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