TODAY |

Should we start capping the number of visitors allowed on the Tongariro Crossing?

The Tongariro Crossing, which runs through Ngaruhoe and Tongariro in the central plateau, is one of New Zealand's most popular walking tracks with over 160,000 people expected to walk it this season alone.

But for all its beauty, the 19.5km trail has its fair share of dangers, and each year there are more accidents and fatalities on the walk. 

It’s New Zealand’s oldest national park and the first ever dual world heritage site.

It's also home to Ngāti Hikairo.

"It is our soul, it is our life - without these mountains we would not exist," said Te Ngaehe Wanikau from Ngāti Hikairo.

In 1886, Tuwharetoa Tupuna Horonuku created a partnership with the Crown to protect Maunga in the area.

"The intent of the tuku was that the summits be held sacred and be protected for all people and all generations to come," said Mr Wanikau.

With the number of trampers increasing, infrastructure is feeling the pressure.

Last year, 150,000 people did the walk.

"That's grown year on year for the past six to eight years," said Connie Norgate, the Department of Conservation's Tongariro operations manager.

And more foot traffic brings more risk.

"We've had three deaths as far as I know, and that's three too many," said Ms Norgate.

Limiting numbers is an option being considered.

"There is potential for that," said Mr Wanikau. "We're looking for other interventions currently with Mountain Safety Council and our treaty partners and, although while that is not one of them, we'll definitely be considering it in the future.

"Absolutely, managing numbers is clearly going to manage the risk and the issue." 

Despite iwi and DOC's best attempt to manage these risks and reduce harm, problems still arise.

"We can only do so much," said Ms Norgate. "We can only put the information out there and hope people use that information and prepare themselves really, really well."

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For all its beauty, the alpine trail has its fair share of dangers. Source: Seven Sharp