Routeburn Track to reopen this week.
The Routeburn Track was due to fully reopen earlier this week, eight months after it was extensively damaged by a biblical storm.
Tracks, bridges, campsites and huts were destroyed back in early February when more than 10% of the region’s average annual rainfall fell in three days, causing flooding and landslides and sparking a major search and rescue operation.
The Department of Conservation partially reopened the Great Walk - a 33km three-day trans-alpine trek between Glenorchy and the Divide/Milford Sound - in March as a return loop on the Glenorchy side, but Monday (Dec 7) was scheduled to be the first time walkers could traverse the whole route again.
“The Milford side of the Routeburn track, between the Divide and Howden Hut has sustained significant damage,” DOC Southern South Island Operations Director Aaron Fleming said in March.
“Lake Howden Hut in particular has been damaged beyond repair, and there are significant landslides that have made the track unsafe.”
Repairs to the track have now progressed to the stage where walkers can hike through, but Howden Hut won’t be rebuilt or replaced. It was hit by a landslide in the middle of the night.
Some 440km of tracks were damaged in the storm, including the Milford Track, which reopened last Monday (Nov 30).
Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan said the reopening of the Milford Track was a “milestone in the flood recovery work taking place in the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring national park areas”.
“Having the Milford Track officially reopen for this year’s Great Walk season is testament to the hard work achieved by both the Department of Conservation and the many contractors involved in the rebuild work.
“Like many places in Aotearoa, the Te Anau community has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 tourism downturn, and coupled with the flood damage to key recreation experiences in the area they’ve had an extremely difficult year.”
Repairs across all damaged tracks is estimated to be a three-year programme.
$13.7million was announced in Budget 2020 to go towards repairing vital conservation and visitor infrastructure destroyed in the February flood.