In mid-December I tramped the Dusky Sound Track in Fiordland. It’s a long and, in parts, difficult track covering 84km over eight days – tramping through spectacular river valleys and alpine passes. Part way along a 15km side track leads to Supper Cove at the inner end of Dusky Sound – hence the track’s name.
I’ll leave it to others to extol the virtues of the landscape, flora and fauna but needless to say there was plenty of stunning scenery and amazing birdlife.
The track has the usual challenges of knee-deep mud and swollen rivers to ford but the biggest challenge comes from the fact the track has not been maintained by the Department of Conservation for a number of years. For example when a tree comes down in a storm it may take several others with it and lack of maintenance means clambering over, crawling under or battling around huge splintered masses of trees with the problem of re-finding the track on the other side.
This makes the track unnecessarily difficult and as a result the number of people tramping it is dwindling. I was told by those associated with the track that fewer than 250 people now walk the track each year – most from overseas. On one section – from Supper Cove to the end of the track on Wilmot Pass Road – I didn’t see a single person for four days.
Failure to maintain the track is not the fault of the Department of Conservation but nine years of National Party governments which have underfunded DOC and pressured it to put its meagre resources into the eight so-called “Great Walks” which bring in larger tourist numbers.
DOC has great people doing a fantastic job but it’s had nasty, venal ministers like Nick Smith and Maggie Barry who have done their best to drive it into the ground.
This is Nick and Maggie’s track.