NZ's Department of Conservation’s compliance team has followed up with six tour operators after an annual check of Great Walks opening bookings.
Checks are being made on six guided walking companies operating on the Heaphy, Paparoa and Rakiura tracks to ensure they have not made incomplete or unauthorised speculative bookings and are not occupying more than 50 per cent of Great Walks hut space, after irregularities were picked up.
Great Walks bookings are sold on a first-in first-served basis from the date that bookings open. Tour operators, like all people booking a Great Walk, need to book when bookings open to the public and include the full names and details of anyone they are booking on behalf of. Bookings cannot be made speculatively and on-sold at later dates.
“Speculative or non-compliant bookings have been a hot topic this year as Great Walks grow in popularity,” said DOC Heritage and Visitors Director Steve Taylor. “The downside of this popularity does mean that there will be a few people who try to get around the system and that’s where DOC’s visitor centre and compliance teams come in.
“The compliance team works with DOC visitor centre staff who review all bookings related to their local Great Walks and report any that look suspicious.
“If operators are found to be in breach of their concession agreements, they must either update their bookings or have the places cancelled.
“This compliance action is in addition to standard work undertaken each year by visitor centres to check any irregular bookings with the public, operators, school and community groups.”
Taylor said speculative bookings by tour operators and others is a relatively uncommon issue.
“Compliance action has only been necessary with six operators whose bookings equate to roughly 0.2 per cent of Great Walk hut and campsite spaces across the coming season.
“However, where it does occur, we have systems in place to identify and respond to it.
“Peak season dates on the Great Walks can book out fast and it’s important access is equal for everyone.”