What is HutReno?
HutReno is a backcountry volunteer experience designed for individuals wanting to give back to society in the form of conservation. A HutReno challenge will draw upon individual enthusiasm, skillset, self-efficacy, and ability to work within a group of like-minds for achieving a specific goal. HutReno is a non-profit organisation that works in parallel with the Department of Conservation (DOC). This volunteer service is based on protecting the values of sustainability of New Zealand’s backcountry huts, tracks and their valued caretakers.
Each backcountry project entitled: MuchMore2live4 will include aspects of life-coaching. HutReno isn’t just about protocol and efficiency of Human Doing but also authenticates the virtues of Human Being as the meaning to life, relationships and personal well-being. Participants will receive a HutReno Backcountry Volunteer Certificate for their contribution to conservation.
Is 2019 the time to consider mandating backcountry sustainability by having a New Zealand Sustainability Outdoors Summit (NZSOS) for gaining consensus and ensuring the longevity of our vulnerable backcountry structures by all users and stakeholders?
The following is a list of HutReno considerations/proposals:
- Should all backcountry huts (approximately 950 including Great Walks) require an operational five-year Warrant of Fitness (WOF)?
- The possibility of ten extra backcountry locations, circuits or hiking/walking trails be categorized as ‘Great Walks’?
- That high demand backcountry huts become part of DOC’s booking system?
- That all backcountry huts booking fees be increased by double their present rate while backcountry camp-sites and Great Walks be increased by twenty-five percent (with special conditions for families)?
- The possibility that the Tourist and Forestry industry and others who capitalize on New Zealand’s natural environment in their promotions be levied?
- That the Tongariro Crossing be given special status as an alpine experience reflected through the DOC booking system?
HutReno NZ was created by counsellor, group therapist, and 30-year tramping enthusiast, David Moore following two successful hut renovations in the Lake Summer Forest Park in March 2019. This volunteer project, which took twelve months to organize, was undertaken by the Auckland Baptist Tramping Club as part of the clubs 40th anniversary. HutReno is a separate organization to ABTC.
HutReno’s Primary Focus
The primary focus of HutReno is to support the Department of Conservation with a volunteer service that helps DOC with its limited resources and budget expectations. With approximately 950 huts, Kiwis can be proud of DOC’s massive contribution to conservation and backcountry infrastructure in this country! HutReno exists to help this continue into the future!
In 2015, DOC incentivised volunteer conservation groups by making available $26 million dollars over a four-year period through The Community Conservation Partnership Fund. HutReno is committed to partnering with DOC, other various stakeholders, suitable volunteers and other groups undertaking backcountry volunteer projects in the name of conservation of NZ’s backcountry huts and tracks. This is apart from DOC’s volunteer conservation service.
The Case for Backcountry Sustainability
There is enormous pressure on DOC to address existing damage and/or maintenance to our backcountry tracks, huts and bridges. There is also an increasing demand to improve the wear and tear on older huts, erosion of backcountry tracks, removal of run-down huts and the huge demand on DOC’s budget for new builds. According to the Mountain Safety Council’s 2018 report (A Walk in the Park), an estimated 1.5 million people had taken to New Zealand tracks in 2018! Are NZ backcountry huts and tracks about to face a detrimental volume of human traffic? What mechanism is in place to measure the effect of such an increase given what is taking place on the Tongariro Crossing?
Volunteer Motivation and Momentum
The dedication of volunteers who willingly provide their time and skills in the name of conservation highlights not only their personal sacrifice but the enormity of the task at hand. To help reinforce volunteer enthusiasm, effort, and energy, HutReno users a strategy it calls ROPE. It is an acronym for a volunteer experience that is: Robust, Organized, Practical and Enriching. The simplicity of ROPE will enable strong connection, motivational team building, self-empowerment and pulling-power for maintaining volunteer momentum.
The Feasibility of a Five-year WOF for all DOC Huts?
HutReno believes a Warrant of Fitness (WOF) system covering all backcountry huts and tracks is required. Keeping huts and tracks to a standard fitting for their use requires stakeholders and users to engage in a consultative process. While DOC would have the final say on the criteria of a WOF system for backcountry huts, sustainability rather than regulation needs to drive this undertaking.
Making Better use of the DOC Booking System?
With over-crowding, issues of non-payment, assurance of a bed and less wear and tear on structures, all high demand backcountry huts should be part of the Department of Conservation’s booking system. Managing the sustainability of hundreds of backcountry huts and tracks outside a booking system is difficult given that not all users pay their way. A nationwide booking system for backcountry huts would provide additional income for DOC to better manage backcountry structures.
Extending the Number of Great Walks?
HutReno believes that the number of NZ Great Walks should be extended. The inclusion of the Hump Ridge Track in Southland is a great start. This will help accommodate the increase in the volume of individuals wanting to experience a tramping journey especially at peak times around New Zealand. Popularizing other tracks, circuits or walkways as Great Walks would give larger selection and help alleviate bottlenecks and disappointment when booking these Great Walks with only a limited number of trails, huts and bed nights. Why settle for ten Great Walks when we could be promoting twenty world class hiking destinations within New Zealand. This would provide better management/sustainability and less wear and tear on the existing structures of our Great Walks.
Funding shouldn’t be an issue!
HutReno believes that the New Zealand tourist and forest industry, along with other vested interest groups and/or companies that take advantage of New Zealand’s natural environment in their media promotions without making contributions towards DOC’s conservation initiatives, need to be levied.
The Government’s brave move to levy international visitors by up to $48 million per year for conservation projects around New Zealand is to be applauded. This budget initiative came into effect from 1 July 2019. International tourism to New Zealand is reliant on the sustainability of our natural environment. While there is more to be done funding shouldn’t be a barrier for such an important environmental priority.
Caretakers of a legacy … or taking advantage of the privilege!
Handing our backcountry infrastructure to the next generation in a better state than what we inherited may not occur! If a major focus on backcountry sustainability by all stakeholders involved isn’t planned for and actualized by this generation.
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09 527 1777