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Great Walks to be cheaper for under 18s

 Date: 05 August 2007
 Source: The Office of the Minister of Conservation

Hut and campsite fees for children and young people aged under 18 will be free from July next year on New Zealand's nine Great Walks, including the Whanganui Journey.

Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced the initiative on the Abel Tasman Coast Track today, on the eve of this year's Conservation Week (August 6 12), the theme of which is outdoor recreation.

'This initiative is designed to reduce the barriers to more young people walking New Zealand's most spectacular tracks with their family, their friends or with school groups,' Mr Carter said.

'As our population becomes more urbanised, it is crucial we make it as easy as we can for young people to switch off the TV and the playstation and discover the outdoors. Only through first-hand experience will young New Zealanders fully appreciate the importance of preserving our natural environment, and its significance to our national identity.

'By abolishing fees for those under 18, we can reduce by a third the cost of walking the Abel Tasman Coast Track for a family of two adults and two teenagers. The cost of three nights in huts on the track drops from $270 to $180. The savings are even more pronounced on more expensive Great Walks like the Milford Track,' Mr Carter said.

'This intiative fufills a key recommendation from the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Summit last year to improve access to the outdoors, and it also complements the Labour-led government's wider work to tackle obesity, foster recreation and tourism, and enhance the time working people have to spend with their families.'

The nine Great Walks are: 
Lake Waikaremoana, 
Tongariro Northern Circuit, 
Heaphy Track,  
Abel Tasman Coast Track, 
Kepler Track,  
Routeburn Track, 
Milford Track, 
the Rakiura Track, 
and the Whanganui Journey. 


Questions and Answers 
What are some of the fees young people are charged on Great Walks? 
On the Routeburn, Kepler and Milford Tracks, hut fees are up to about $20 a night for a young person aged 5-17. Campsites range up to $7.50 per night.

Won't this initiative disproportionately benefit tourists? 
Tourists will benefit. However, on some tracks, such as Lake Waikaremoana, 94 per cent of those under 18 walking are New Zealanders. On the Routeburn, about 55 per cent are. New Zealanders will still benefit more than tourists.

What about fees for accommodation on the rest of the conservation estate? 
People aged 11 to 17 will still have to pay hut fees on other tracks but these are already very low - about $5 a night for serviced huts and $2.50 a night for standard huts and free for basic huts. Children aged 10 and under can already stay free of charge.

Why won't the initiative come into place until next July? 
Given the considerable bookings already made for Great Walks for the coming summer season, it is not practical to introduce the fee changes until 2008/2009. To do so would require paying out refunds which would be administratively expensive and difficult to manage, and brochures and information would need to be reprinted.

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