New Zealand's national parks are a group of protected areas, forests, ranges and mountains. They are monitored and administered by the Department of Conservation “for the benefit, use and enjoyment of the public”.
“The real gems of this country, the national parks preserve the natural heritage, forests, wildlife and landscapes, close to – and in some cases, exactly – as it was before man was here.” – newzealand.com on national parks.
Many of these parks are culturally and historically significant; Tongariro National Park is a World heritage Site, along with four South Island national parks combined and named Te Wahipounamu (the place of greenstone).
If you bring it in, take it out
There are many huts and cabins that line the trails of our national parks. They are often made from wood and vary in size to be able to hold two to 20+ people. It’s not uncommon for beds to be arranged in a ‘bunk’ setting, and a living area will have a fireplace and possibly kitchen amenities. There will either be an inside toilet or an outside ‘long-drop- style toilet. Don’t be scared of these – they are clean and pleasant smelling as they are regularly maintained and cleaned.
If you’re planning on staying in cabins or huts in a national park, do some research about what each one contains. Some may have cooking equipment and facilities available, while others may not.
In any case you must take your own food and water.
The department of Conservation website has a list of all huts and cabins with the facilities they provide. See Pouikai Hut as an example of the wonderful places you’ll come across.
To keep the parks as clean and healthy as possible, take all rubbish out with you and dispose of it properly. Littering in national parks damages the eco-system there and can harm wildlife.
Bring a small gas cooker or use any wood fire available in a hut or cabin to heat and cook food. Open fires in a national park are illegal as they can quickly turn into wildfires and damage large portions of forest and land.
Every national park has its own beauty. There is great satisfaction to be found walking under tunnels of trees, along ridges, on bush tracks or standing on the summit of a mountain where the air is clear and the birds are singing.
Pre-determined and well-used tracks traverse every national park – these are the safest routes to take. You will know where you are going and this will prevent you getting lost in the dense New Zealand forest and bush. If you do lose your way, stay on a track in one place to make it easier for you to be found.
Make enough time for a journey to be able to take your time – you don’t want to rush and miss stunning views and photo opportunities!
It’s also advised to write in a guest book or let someone know where you are going and how long you will be, so alarm can be raised if you do not return in time. The New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process is a great way to use the appropriate measures in order to keep you as safe as possible and to find you as fast as possible if the unexpected happens. Use the easy three-stpe flow chart to let someone know about your trip.
Consult the local visitor’s centre before choosing a track or walk to attempt. If you are looking at climbing a mountain, you will need and experienced guide and the correct clothing and equipment needed for the particular climb. Don’t forget that conditions can change quickly in NZ, so bring suitable clothes for cool or wet weather. It’s also advisable to pack some extra food or water in case your hike takes longer than anticipated.
No dogs (unless permitted like police and search and rescue dogs) are allowed into national parks as they can hunt and attack native and rare animals, especially the flightless kiwi – New Zealand’s treasured native animal.
Look but don’t touch
There are many unique plants and flowers in New Zealand’s national parks, but as much as you’d like to take a clipping or a leaf/flower home with you, please refrain from doing so. The balance of life in the national parks can be upset by people removing or damaging plants, catching/hunting animals, introducing foreign foliage and digging or excavating into the ground.
The most important rule: enjoy yourself and have a great time!
Do you have a favourite national park or a story to share? Let us know in a comment below.
Areas of National Parks in New Zealand, from Wikipedia