Entrance fee likely for famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing once local iwi settles with Crown

The public could soon be expected to pay a fee to use Tongariro National Park in a bid to preserve the sacred site.

Source: 1 NEWS

Local iwi, Ngati Tuwharetoa, will sign its Deed of Settlement with the Crown on Saturday.

Ngati Hikairo spokesman Te Ngaehe Wanikau told 1 NEWS NOW that "through the Deed of Settlement they are hoping to co-split management with DOC (Department of Conservation)".

The park features the popular Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which in 2015 had more than 125,000 visitors. 

"Our main focus is the wellbeing of the site, and right now it is being compromised by the number of people using it and the lack of management plan in place," Mr Wanikau told 1 NEWS NOW.

Mr Wanikau said although it's a controversial topic, it is likely they will introduce an entrance fee for park users.

Tongariro Expeditions owner Jared Thomas said he was aware of the proposed charge and supported it.

"It's not a charge – it's a maintenance fee and at this point in time, the park is in real need of that maintenance," Mr Thomas said.

"We work closely with the iwi", Thomas said, "which makes sense as we are the ones at the coal face and we can advise and make recommendations based on what we're seeing - right now, that's a high volume of people coming through and a lack of cohesive management strategies."

Mr Wanikau anticipated backlash if the fee was enforced but said it was necessary to save the site.

"We aren't being overboard in the cultural sense, we aren't saying 'do a karakia' or anything like that, just don't take a crap when there are toilets to use, and don't drop your rubbish, it's common sense stuff and it's a shame we are having to even have these conversations,"Mr  Wanikau said.

Mr Wanikau said iwi were in positive discussion with DOC and that he hoped the Deed of Settlement will further solidify their relationship.

In a statement DOC's Regional Operations Director Allan Munn says: "We have been looking at a variety of improvements and options to protect the park's cultural and natural values, to improve the visitor experience and to manage the increased numbers visiting the park."

Mr Munn went on to say: "We look forward to continue working with our partner Ngāti Tāwharetoa on the longer-term strategy for the park and the crossing and we will be looking at implementing some of the changes the review has identified when the new walking season starts in October."

Mr Munn says the current legislation prevents DOC from charging people coming into this or any other national park and there would need to be changes to legislation to impose charges for going into the park or walking the crossing.

- By Charlotte Carter