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DOC, HDC: Walk Cape Kidnappers track ‘at own risk’

15 Jul 2020  By Shannon Williams | | @tourismticker

Gannet Beach Adventures will need to update its safety plan before it could resume operations, says DOC. Image: GBA

The Department of Conservation and Hastings District Council will reopen the Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauae-a-Māui track later this year, allowing walkers to access the track at their own risk.

DOC closed the popular track after a landslide seriously injured two tourists last year. Following a report into the event, the department planned to manage the track like a backcountry site discouraging visitors looking for a “casual beach walk”.

According to the final Quantitative Risk Assessment report, the landslide and rockfall hazard presented by the cliffs above the beach was “significant, unpredictable, and potentially fatal”.

DOC Lower North Island operations director Hayden Barrett said the risk from the natural hazards at Cape Kidnappers/Te Kauae-a-Māui could not be mitigated, but some controls to help manage the risk and avoid restricting all access could be put in place.

“This includes warning people of the risks, monitoring the cliffs, temporary closures where necessary and changing DOC’s management of visitor facilities.”

“Now that we understand the high level of risk, we cannot provide facilities – such as a well-groomed track – that might signal to people that the trip is safe. By aligning our management with that of back country sites, we aim to discourage people who are simply after a casual beach walk.”

The QRA compared the risk for people travelling along the beach as equivalent to the risks faced by people undertaking mountain climbing.

“Mountain climbers are generally well-informed and prepared for the obvious risks they face – very different from most day visitors looking to walk this mainly flat beach walk. Many visitors are seeking a relatively safe and easy walk, not somewhere where the chance of serious injury or fatality is a very real possibility,” Barrett said.

Local tour company Gannet Beach Adventures faced closure after DOC suspended its concession to run tours on the beach.

Barrett said the operator would need to update its safety plan to satisfactorily address the risks now identified in the QRA before it could resume its operations.

“DOC has provided Gannet Beach Adventures with the QRA and is working with them to ensure they understand the steps they need to take,” he said.

Hastings District Council group manager Craig Thew said some work would need to be completed to address visitor risks before DOC could open the track. This work would be completed over the next few months, aiming to reopen the track in time for the gannet season.

Signs at the Clifton Beach entrance would be updated to note the risk, along with information on the DOC and HDC websites. The walk along the beach would not be promoted.

“The Council and DOC will be co-managing the access to address the risks as one seamless journey, which includes the development of a joint Experience Management Plan,” he said.

“We will also be monitoring the entrance of the beach and if we’re still seeing visitors unaware of the risks, we’ll look at adjusting the information we provide.”


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