Page 1

#MakeItHomeNZ

Tramping in the Tararua Ranges ISSUE SPECIFIC ADVISORY GROUP REPORT

PREPARED BY THE NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL


Important information for all readers This document has been developed as an outcome of the Mountain Safety Council’s (MSC) Tararua Ranges Issue Specific Advisory Process. In March 2019 the MSC, with the support of the Department of Conservation (DOC), established a ten-person Advisory Group. The purpose of this group was to develop specific, targeted interventions that aim to reduce the number of tramping-related safety incidents occurring in the Tararua Ranges. Between June and October 2019 the Advisory Group met on two separate occasions. Following a design-thinking process, utilising incident and participation data, the Advisory Group developed eight proposed prevention solutions. These eight proposed prevention solutions are detailed in this report. Following feedback from a wider Reference Group, and discussions with DOC, some of these solutions have been selected to progress at either a local or national level. A short summary is contained following each proposed solution.

New Zealand Mountain Safety Council Level 1 Harbour City Centre, 29 Brandon Street | Wellington 6011 info@mountainsafety.org.nz mountainsafety.org.nz All images copyright Mountain Safety Council 2020 Cover photo: Loïc Lassueur, Tararua Ranges

mountainsafety.org.nz #MakeItHomeNZ

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report

More information about the implementation of this Issue Specific Advisory Group can be found on the MSC website: www.mountainsafety.org.nz/explore/issue-specificadvisory-function/ All questions related to this document should be directed to: Bevan Smith, Partnerships Advisor Bevan.Smith@mountainsafety.org.nz All questions relating to MSC’s insights work, or the wider Issue Specific Advisory Function should be directed to: Nathan Watson, Operations Manager Nathan.Watson@mountainsafety.org.nz


Contents Introduction and Insights

3-10

Took longer than expected

5

Poor navigational skills

6

Overambitious choice of route

7

Lack of sufficient experience

8

Unexpected night out

9

Participant Journey

11-12

Proposed Solutions

13-22

1. Targeted marketing campaigns

14

2. Track information sources and tools

15

3. Track options and an improved visitor-centric track grading system

17

4. Improved public access to live weather and conditions data

18

5. Consistent and accurate track times and track markings

19

6. Targeted causation prevention signage at key junctions and decision points

20

7. Location-specific safety information in huts

21

8. Public observation and conditions reporting tool

22

Next steps

23

Thank you and acknowledgments

24

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

2


Introduction and Insights The Tararua Ranges Environment With their proximity to Wellington, the  Tararua Ranges are one of the most frequently used Forest Parks in the country. There are approximately 152,000 visitors each year, with 130,000 from Wellington. The ranges act as a natural divide between Kapiti and Horowhenua to the west and Wairarapa to the east. The Tararuas have a long and proud tramping history. New Zealand’s first tramping club, the Tararua Tramping Club, built one of the country’s earliest dedicated tramping huts, Field Hut, in 1924 and the New Zealand Forest Service established it as the first State Forest Park in 1954.   The 116,535-hectare Tararua Forest Park covers more than three-quarters of the Tararua Range. Nowadays it is administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and extends from the Pahiatua Track in the north, to the Remutaka Saddle in the south. The main access points are from Holdsworth on the eastern side, and Otaki Forks on the western side.  Among New Zealand trampers, the Tararua Ranges are widely considered to present some of the most challenging conditions. Despite the relatively low elevation, the combination of rough, steep and densely bushclad mountains and frequent severe weather which often produces gale force winds, driving rain and little visibility, the Tararuas provide a true test of tramping ability.

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report

Top: Tararua Ladder, L. Lassueur Bottom: Tramper in the Tararuas, N. Watson


Tararua Ranges

Incidents in the Tararua Ranges MSC’s Insights Publication A Walk in the Park? provides an » The tramp ‘took longer than expected’, typically resulting in-depth exploration of tramping participation and incidents in the person/s becoming overdue and increasing the over a ten-year period from July 2007 to June 2017. On length of time they were exposed to the conditions. pages 42 to 45, the report contains a selection of insights In some cases this resulted in hypothermia or severe specific to the Tararua Ranges. exhaustion. This cause contributed to 38% of all SAR and four fatalities. At the time of producing A Walk in the Park? Search and Rescue (SAR) data was available for a 7-year period (2010 » ‘Poor navigational skills’, generally resulting in the – 2017). Over that time 186 trampers were involved in SAR tramper taking a wrong turn or not knowing where they events. This made the Tararua Forest Park, which covers were, accounted for 23% of all SAR and contributed to more than three-quarters of the broader Tararua Ranges, two fatalities. the third highest conservation area for SAR in New Zealand, only behind Fiordland and Tongariro National Parks. » Being ‘overambitious’ about their choice of route or Additionally, 5 fatalities in 10 years (2007 – 2017) made the park the top spot in the North Island for tramping fatalities. More recently the MSC has conducted further analysis of the latest incident data, incorporating SAR events and fatalities through 2018 and 2019. These results have further highlighted that the situation has not dramatically changed. The risks to trampers still exist and there is enough supporting evidence for MSC to focus on the Tararua Ranges as part of its prevention work. The Issue Specific Advisory Group used the evidence available to identify the most common causes of tramping incidents in the Tararua Ranges. Most outdoor recreation incidents often have more than one causation factor, therefore a number of these causes were present across the same incident. The group identified that five direct causes, which accounted for a majority of all SAR and fatalities between 2010 and 2017, were the most important to address through prevention measures. The top five causes were:

ability accounted for 21% of all SAR and contributed to four fatalities. » A ‘lack of sufficient experience’, meaning the trampers

did not know how to respond to the conditions, terrain and other challenges of their route choice, accounted for 21% of all SAR and contributed to three fatalities » An ‘unexpected night out’ (for which they were not

prepared or equipped for) accounted for at least 20% of SAR incidents and four of the five fatalities. This is double the national average. Over the next few pages we highlight the leading causes in more detail. This information is included to provide interested parties with more context, and is not intended to be part of the feedback process or provide an extensive breakdown of all relevant insights. You can read A Walk in the Park?’ online: www.bitly.com/awitp

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

4


CAUSATION FACTOR 1:

1% Separated from group

Solo

Took longer than expected

10%

The most common cause of tramping related SAR in the Tararua Ranges is people underestimating the time it would take them to complete their walk or achieve their initial plans. At least 62 people were reported overdue, or triggered their PLB due to this cause over a seven-year period.

Group Status at time of SAR for trampers who took longer than expected (2010-2017)

89% Group

International Visitor

The single largest age group involved were 18-24-year olds, however this causation factor includes trampers of all ages and genders. The vast majority were tramping as part of a group, and 95% of them were New Zealanders.

5%

NZ vs. International Visitor for SAR who took longer than expected (2010-2017)

This cause is often related to other causation factors, with a ‘lack of sufficient experience’ and being ‘overambitious in their choice of route’ the most commonly related.

95%

To address this issue, the Advisory Group suggest that initiatives are needed which:

New Zealander

» Provide clear expectations of journey times

Track damaged, overgrown etc

» Provide a public interface for reporting of obstacles/issues on the track

10 Unprepared for weather conditions

» Convince trampers to always factor in additional time in their planning

23

7 Other causes for those who took longer than expected (2010-2017)

» Provide an accurate picture of conditions in order for trampers to set realistic expectations Overambitious choice of route

18 10 10 Poor navigational skills

Demographics of rescued trampers who took longer than expected (2010-2017) 10 8 6

6 5 4

4 3

3

3

3 2

2

2

1 0-17

18-24

25-34 Women Rescued

35-49 Men Rescued

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report

50-64 Unknown

Lack of sufficient experience

43%

0 65+

Not recorded

Poor fitness


CAUSATION FACTOR 2:

Poor navigational skills

International Visitor 21%

The second most common cause of tramping related SAR in the Tararua Ranges is poor navigational skills. At least 38 trampers required SAR support, over a seven-year period, because their poor navigational skills contributed to them either becoming lost or significantly delayed. Most of these trampers were part of a group, although nearly a quarter of all involved were tramping solo.

NZ vs. International Visitor for SAR who had poor navigational skills (2010-2017) 79% New Zealander

Separated from group 5%

New Zealanders accounted for 79% of incidents involving poor navigational skills, far more than international visitors who accounted forthe remaining 21%. However this is the highest cause of SAR for international visitors in the Tararuas.

Solo 24% Group Status at time of SAR for trampers who had poor navigational skills (2010-2017)

To address this issue, the Advisory Group suggest that initiatives are needed which:

71% Group

» Match participants with suitable tracks, based on their previous experience and current competency » Provide clear signage (times, junctions) and wayfinding (poles, track markers) » Assist wayfinding by installing maps at the start of tracks » Promote mobile-friendly offline apps which use GPS to track location

Demographics of rescued trampers who had poor navigational skills (2010-2017) 11

8

5 4 3 2 1 0-17

2 18-24

2 1

1 25-34 Women Rescued

1 0

0 35-49 Men Rescued

50-64

43%

0

65+

0

0

Not recorded

Unknown

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

6


CAUSATION FACTOR 3:

International Visitor

Overambitious choice of route

3%

Younger male trampers are significantly overrepresented when analysing this causation factor. Where we know the age and gender of the people involved, 37% were males aged between 18 and 24 years.

NZ vs. International Visitor for SAR who were overambitious in their choice of route (2010-2017)

97% New Zealander

Consistent with the overall percentage of safety incidents in the Tararua Ranges, almost all involved were New Zealanders. To address this issue, the Advisory Group suggest that initiatives are needed which:

Solo 9%

» Match participants with suitable tracks, based on their previous experience and current competency

Group Status at time of SAR for trampers who were overambitious in their choice of route (2010-2017)

» Provide an accurate picture of conditions in order for trampers to set realistic expectations » Convince trampers to take sufficient equipment

91% Group

Demographics of rescued trampers who were overambitious about their choice of route (2010-2017) 10

4

4

4 3

3 2

1

1

0 0-17

18-24

0 25-34 Women Rescued

35-49 Men Rescued

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report

1

1 50-64 Unknown

0 43%

1

0

65+

Not recorded


CAUSATION FACTOR 4:

Lack of sufficient experience

International Visitor 21%

This causation factor, involving at least 36 trampers over seven years, has some very similar characteristics when compared to causation factor 2 (poor navigational skills). Again, we see an increase in solo tramper involvement and a higher number of international visitors.

NZ vs. International Visitor for SAR who were inexperienced (2010-2017)

79% New Zealander

To address this issue, the Advisory Group suggest that initiatives are needed which:

Separated from group 3% Solo

» Match participants with suitable tracks, based on their previous experience and current competency

26% Group Status at time of SAR for trampers who were inexperienced (2010-2017)

» Provide an accurate picture of conditions in order for trampers to set realistic expectations » Promote inexperienced trampers to go with someone more experienced (this could include formal opportunities e.g. training courses or tramping clubs, as well as informally.)

71% Group

» Convince trampers and day walkers to take sufficient equipment

Demographics of rescued trampers who were inexperienced (2010-2017)

8 6 5 4 2 0

2 0

1

1 0-17

18-24

25-34 Women Rescued

35-49 Men Rescued

2 1

1 50-64

0

1

0

65+

Not recorded

Unknown

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

8


CAUSATION FACTOR 5:

Unexpected night out

International Visitor 12%

An unexpected night out can be a very dangerous situation, particularly if the conditions are unforgiving, which is often the case in the Tararua Ranges.

NZ vs. International Visitor for SAR who had an unexpected night out (2010-2017)

To address this issue, the Advisory Group suggest that initiatives are needed which:

88% New Zealander

» Match participants with suitable tracks, based on their previous experience and current competency

Solo

» Convince trampers to carry an emergency shelter, a torch and spare warm clothing and food

15%

» Provide clear expectations of journey time

Group Status at time of SAR for trampers who had an unexpected night out (2010-2017)

85% Group

Demographics of rescued trampers who had an unexpected night out (2010-2017)

6

3

3

3 2

2

3 2

2

2

1 0-17

18-24

1 25-34 Women Rescued

35-49 Men Rescued

50-64

1 65+

1

1

Not recorded

Unknown Right: Tramping towards Kime Hut, Tararuas, A Smith

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report


NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

10


Participant Journey When considering the effectiveness and potential reach of the proposed solutions, the Advisory Group did so within the context of a typical participant journey sequence. This journey was identified as having five stages, for the purposes of this work.

Dream The participant becomes interested in tramping, or specifically in the Tararua Ranges, and considers tramping in the Ranges sometime in the future. This stage is usually well before any effort is made to establish a plan to go.

Plan The participant goes through the process of making the ‘Dream’ a reality by learning more about the Tararua Ranges (e.g. different tracks to walk, how to get there, what to take, where to stay).

Prepare The participant makes final preparations for the tramp, checking the weather forecast and packing their pack.

Experience The participant travels (generally by private car) to the start of the track. They complete their tramp, then head home.

Share The participant shares their experience with others. This sharing can influence the ‘Dream’ and ‘Plan’ stages for future participants. Sharing may take on many different forms including word of mouth with friends and family, written information through blogs or social media and sharing imagery and videos through social media platforms.

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report


Above: A group of trampers about to set off into the Tararua Ranges - FrametheAdventureNZ

Aligning solutions to the participant journey The Advisory Group has aligned each of the proposed solutions to a particular stage of the participant journey. This allows us to understand where on their journey the incident prevention interventions will be of most value to the participant and therefore have the highest likelihood of success. Ideally, solutions should engage the participants through multiple stages of their journey. This helps to ensure the information/advice is the most relevant and contextual and has the greatest chance to effect behaviour change or influence decision making. Participants should have enough information in order to decide whether each track is the right experience for them. This may include understanding if there are other more suitable alternatives available. If they do decide to head into the Tararua Ranges, they need to be aware of the challenges they’ll be facing and how to be suitably prepared. Further details on each of the proposed solutions is available over the following pages. These are presented in a chronological order that follows the stages of the participant journey.

DREAM 1. Targeted marketing campaigns

PLAN 2. Track information sources and tools

3. Track options and an improved visitor-centric track grading system

PREPARE 4. I mproved public access to live weather and conditions data

EXPERIENCE 5. C onsistent and accurate track times and track markings

SHARE 8. P ublic observation and conditions reporting tool

6. T argeted causation prevention signage at key junctions and decision points 7. L ocation-specific safety information in huts

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

12


Proposed Solutions

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report


1. Targeted marketing campaigns Overview

WHY WILL THIS REDUCE INCIDENTS

A number of targeted campaigns are required to address the primary causes of incidents in the Tararua Ranges.

This solution will reduce incidents by increasing the awareness of the target audience. Specifically, it will address the importance of adequate planning and preparation for a trip into the Tararua Ranges.

The integrated campaigns could use a range of channels such as social media, radio, print and TV. Plus additional mechanisms that suit the specific target audiences. The integrated campaigns could focus on local (domestic) visitors to the Tararua Ranges, prioritising those who live in the Wellington Region. Further segmentation would allow the campaigns to focus on key age groups, such as those aged into their mid-20s. While the exact content has not been determined, a strong element of these campaigns would focus on clearly articulating the risks and how to successfully ensure participants can manage these through adequate planning, preparation and decision-making. Visual content and the key message will reinforce positive behaviours and role model appropriate clothing, equipment, weather and user actions/behaviours.

ISSUES WHICH THIS SOLUTION AIMS TO SUPPRESS » Lack of sufficient experience » Poor navigational skills » Overambitious choice of route » Took longer than expected » Unexpected night out STAGE OF THE PARTICIPANT JOURNEY

EASE OF IMPLEMENTATION EASY

MED

HARD

Above: Example of a related safety campaign targeting NZ youth aged into their mid-20s. NZ Transport Agency’s Road Safety Campaign - ‘Ghost Chips’

AGREED NEXT STEPS

We will not progress at this stage. There are other national campaigns that wil achieve the intended outcomes that this solution seeks to make.

Left: Tararua Ranges, L. Lassueur

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

14


2. Track information sources and tools Overview

WEBSITE

Across New Zealand, there are a plethora of existing information sources about different tramping tracks. Of these, there are a number of websites, blogs and books which include information relevant to the Tararuas. Some, such as Tararua Footprints (a book which has also been turned into a basic website), have detailed descriptions and route guides, yet these are quickly outdated with no regular updates or improvements. Others, such as Find My Adventure (which is run by Walking Access Commission) and the DOC website, have dedicated resources at a national level, yet in a number of cases the location specific pages lack the detailed information required for each track or route in the Tararuas. The more accurate, descriptive and detailed this information is, the more it would help trampers to be adequately informed and to make realistic trip plans.

Work is needed to improve the level of detail provided on the ‘official’ websites which describe tracks on Public Conservation Land. Firstly, the DOC website for the Tararuas does not provide a great level of detail for trampers planning an overnight or multiday tramp. As an example, see the Tararua Southern 1 Crossing page . The Advisory Group would like to see a greater level of detail on this page, as well as the other popular walks in the Tararuas, in a similar level of detail as is provided for other multiday DOC walks (e.g. Gillespie Pass circuit). Given the often-serious nature of incidents in the Tararuas it is critically important that this information is developed to specifically target known causal factors and provides a prevention-focused approach to information delivery.

The Advisory Group believe there is a significant opportunity for information on the tracks in the Tararuas to be improved.

Secondly, the Walking Access Commission, which has been tasked with managing a national database of maps and tracks across New Zealand, manages the Walking Access 2 Mapping System . In November 2018, they launched There are a range of solutions which could help the public to have better information and better suit the preferred tools Find My Adventure, a website that compiles information which different users choose to use to research their tramp. on tracks and trails in one online place. Currently on this website there are no tracks in the Tararuas other than the section of Te Araroa Trail which passes through the park. 3 Find My Adventure has the potential to be a great source of detail for users to be better informed in their trip planning phase, however this will need greater support from DOC (and all Regional Councils in areas other than Wellington) to make this tool truly useful. An example of a similar website which has the level of detail and numbers of tracks is 4 Washington Trails Association’s Hike Finder . AGREED NEXT STEPS

DOC acknowledge that the information on their website can be improved and will work with MSC to complete. Above: Department of Conservation Tararua Southern Crossing information page.

1. https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/wellington-kapiti/places/ tararua-forest-park/things-to-do/tracks/tararua-southern-crossing/ 2. https://maps.walkingaccess.govt.nz/OurMaps/ 3. https://www.walkingaccess.govt.nz/find-my-adventure/ 4. https://www.wta.org/go-outside/map

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report


APP 5

Parks Canada has recently launched an app on Android and iOS which provides much of the desired level of information which would help trampers in the Tararuas to plan their tramp. This app provides information needed to plan a trip complete with a thorough description of the route, colour-coded track grade, elevation profile, distance and estimated walking time. It also includes a customisable packing list for the journey which considers personal factors such as group size, children in group, fitness level and season. Additional features include trail maps (which can be downloaded to your device), information on campsites and the ability to create personalised itineraries. To develop a similar app for the NZ market, the Advisory Group would want to see the inclusion of a topographical mapping system, integration of the relevant mountain or rural weather forecast, the inclusion of any DOC issued alerts and the ability to track and record walking speed (similar to Strava).

WHY WILL THIS REDUCE INCIDENTS

This solution will provide accurate descriptions and necessary information required to plan realistic trips into the Tararuas. This will result in trampers being better informed to make the best possible decisions. It will also help people to choose an appropriate level of track, and show alternative options ISSUES WHICH THIS SOLUTION AIMS TO SUPPRESS » Lack of sufficient experience » Poor navigational skills » Overambitious choice of route » Took longer than expected » Unexpected night out STAGE OF THE PARTICIPANT JOURNEY

(for App)

EASE OF IMPLEMENTATION EASY

MED

HARD

Easy – website information improvements Medium – App development

Above: Topo-gps.com app for mobile use

5. https://open.canada.ca/en/apps/parks-canada-national-app

Above: Walking Access Commission ‘ Find My Adventure’ website

AGREED NEXT STEPS

MSC are in the process of building an app which will deliver many of these functions. DOC will partner with MSC to supply data and promote the app.

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

16


3. T rack options and an improved visitor-centric track grading system The Advisory Group believe the Tararua Ranges needs additional shorter, and lower grade track options to suit people looking for shorter/easier trips, as an entry level experience in the Ranges. This would also provide further trip options catering for times of adverse weather.

ISSUES WHICH THIS SOLUTION AIMS TO SUPPRESS

Additionally, any new tracks, and particularly the existing track network should trial an improved public track grading system that more effectively communicates the varying track/trip challenge. The current 6 tier track grading system is thought to be confusing and does not simply and effectively communicate the track options to users without them having an understanding of the 6 varying track types (which are designed for track standards and management, not to enable effective track selection).

» Unexpected night out

» Lack of sufficient experience » Poor navigational skills » Overambitious choice of route

STAGE OF THE PARTICIPANT JOURNEY

EASE OF IMPLEMENTATION EASY

MED

HARD

Hard - Additional ‘easier’ track options An improved public grading system could be applied over top of the existing classification system, not requiring any changes to the DOC management principles.

Medium - Improved track grading system

An example of the type of system which should be trialled is already widely used in other countries, and in New Zealand for other activities such as mountain biking and ski fields. A colour coded system using green (easy), blue (intermediate) and black (hard/advanced) would allow for easy mapping to the existing 6 track grades. These changes would be integrated into existing digital maps, existing print publications such as DOC guides, and into physical at place signage. As third-party physical maps are updated, these changes could also be applied. A trial period would allow for user testing and feedback. WHY WILL THIS REDUCE INCIDENTS

It will help people choose an appropriate level of track, and allows for alternative options if the weather is poorer than expected, or for those who have less experience. It also aligns with other sports which use colour-grading to influence decision making about which track best suits their experience and ability

Top to bottom: Hiking Trail systems from Canada, Makara Peak Mountain Bike Trail Grading System

AGREED NEXT STEPS

There is no need for new tracks due to many other easier options near the Tararua Ranges. An improved grading system has merit and will be considered.

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report


4. Improved public access to live weather and conditions data The impact of adverse weather is very apparent in the Tararua Ranges. While all of New Zealand’s mountainous terrain experiences adverse weather, which can have a significant impact on ones experience, the Tararua Ranges experiences some of the most significant weather changes. Unfortunately it is currently difficult for MetService to accurately forecast for the area due to poor observational weather data. The worst result of trampers being unprepared for sudden weather changes in such an environment is succumbing to hypothermia. Over the past 12 years (2007-2019) the Tararua Ranges has had more hypothermia-related deaths than any other conservation area in New Zealand.

ISSUES WHICH THIS SOLUTION AIMS TO SUPPRESS » Lack of sufficient experience » Overambitious choice of route » Unexpected night out STAGE OF THE PARTICIPANT JOURNEY

EASE OF IMPLEMENTATION EASY

MED

HARD

The Advisory Group believe that the installation of Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) and webcams would be beneficial. These devices would enable improved weather forecasting, and with a public interface, allow users to incorporate them into their tip preparations. Key locations such as Powell Hut or Kime Hut, strategically placed to show conditions at two very popular areas of the Tararua Ranges, would be ideal candidates. Additionally it may be useful to also have an AWS in the northern part of the park. Several other backcountry locations around New Zealand already have this infrastructure installed so both the technology and the knowledge to install and maintain this is already operational. WHY WILL THIS REDUCE INCIDENTS

Automated Weather Stations help forecasters with collecting reliable observations of weather data in this highly changeable environment, which in turn will translate into more accurate forecasting. Publicly available information helps people gain an understanding of weather conditions in the hills, and prepare adequately, or make changes to their plans.

Above: Weather examples on the Tararua Ranges - A.Smith and Wikipedia

AGREED NEXT STEPS

We will not progress at this stage.

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

18


5. Consistent and accurate track times and track markings Advisory Group members with personal experience of the Tararua Ranges suggest there is a significant variation in the accuracy and consistency of stated track times. These inaccurate times can contribute to issues when the realworld experience of a tramper does not align with their expectations i.e. they plan for a 6-hour day but in reality, under normal conditions, will actually need 9 hours. Developing track times that are accurate for every user is difficult. There are varying fitness levels, experience and competency. Weather and track conditions can change too, and this can alter times even in the space of a few days. However, all of these issues can largely be overcome through: » A consistent method of determining track times applied to the entire Tararua Ranges track network » Stating variations in time for ‘normal conditions’ or ‘in adverse weather’ » Stating variations in times for differing fitness/speed levels i.e. ‘normal’ and ‘fast’ » User testing these times to ensure they reflect real world speed, this can be done by asking users how long sections took them or utilising technology to record times across large numbers of users and develop ‘minimum’, ‘average’ and ‘fast’ times.

WHY WILL THIS REDUCE INCIDENTS

Publicly stated track times are a critical piece of information relied upon by many users to assist trip planning and preparations. When these times are incorrect, they can significantly impact a person’s safety, especially in adverse weather or when fitness may be a factor. Accurate times help to ensure relevant expectations and reduce ‘surprises’ when travelling between destinations. ISSUES WHICH THIS SOLUTION AIMS TO SUPPRESS » Lack of sufficient experience » Poor navigational skills » Overambitious choice of route » Took longer than expected STAGE OF THE PARTICIPANT JOURNEY

EASE OF IMPLEMENTATION

Medium – due to the field signage updates required EASY

MED

HARD

Additionally, the Advisory Group feel: » Each track, above the bushline, should have reflective features added to every marker pole » More marker poles are required in certain key locations above the bushline i.e. consistently along the alpine sections of the Southern Crossing » At key locations, on the most popular tracks (or where incident data supports this) add additional track information to update users on how much distance and time they should expect to be at the next hut.

Each of these recommendations are considered to be particularly important given the Tararua Ranges experiences a high number of adverse weather days, often where visibility is significantly reduced and also have a large number of search and rescues instigated due to a person under-estimating the time it would take them.

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report

Above left to right: Signage in the Tararua Ranges, Wikipedia, Marker post in the Tararuas, A.Smith

AGREED NEXT STEPS

MSC will explore the key places where track times and markings are contributing to issues. Improvements will be made in places where there is evidence of issues to solve.


6. Targeted causation prevention signage at key junctions and decision points Navigation can be a challenge in the Tararua Ranges. As an unsurprising result it is the second highest cause of trampers needing Search and Rescue assistance. The Advisory Group explored prevention solutions that would specifically address this cause. Outside of improving personal navigation skills (which is difficult to achieve other than promoting the topic through public awareness and safety campaigns, see solution #1) the Advisory Group looked at solutions which could be applied at site. The Ranges are covered in numerous tracks and these junctions provide a natural spot to stop, check in with your group and reassess the conditions, everyone’s wellbeing and confidence, and reconfirm known location. These regular stops are a vital tool experienced trampers often use to continually remain self-aware and keep the group together. The Advisory Group recommend installing specific signage at some of these track junctions, particularly on the most popular tracks. These signs could prompt trampers to: » Take a short break to refuel » Check in with group members, how is everyone doing? » Confirm your expected location, and the next stage of your intended route » Assess progress, how long has it taken you and how much longer do you expect it will take until the next stop

These signs would accompany the existing time/directional signage and their size would be limited to minimise visual impact.

ISSUES WHICH THIS SOLUTION AIMS TO SUPPRESS » Lack of sufficient experience » Poor navigational skills

A trial could be run to assess their value before scaling up to cover further locations. In addition to placement at track junctions there are numerous locations where these signs would be of value at natural rest spots or key decisionmaking points. Using incident data to analyse these critical points would allow evidence-based placement and minimise unnecessary signs. An example of these locations could be the summit of Mt Hector or spot height 455 on the track up to Field Hut

» Overambitious choice of route » Took longer than expected STAGE OF THE PARTICIPANT JOURNEY

EASE OF IMPLEMENTATION EASY

MED

HARD

WHY WILL THIS REDUCE INCIDENTS

This will encourage people to stop and reconfirm their location, actual time taken and estimated time left. It can prompt people to consider the weather and track conditions and what affect this may have on their intended plans.

STO P A

ND C

H EC

K TH

E G RO

U P.

HOW’S EVERYONE DOING?

It will encourage the group to stick together and discuss next steps so everyone is involved in the discussion and decisions. It encourages people to eat regularly and stay hydrated as well as being a chance to add or remove layers as required.

Above: Signage in the Tararua Ranges, A. Smith and N. Watson

AGREED NEXT STEPS

This solution needs more discussion and thought within the wider visitor risk management programme which is currently considering location-specific signage at key decision points.

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

20


7. Location-specific safety information in huts

The Tararua Ranges are blessed with numerous huts. While some of these huts are seldom used, or are situated in remote areas, they’re typically visited by people that are adequately experienced and equipped, and aware of the challenges they’re likely to face. Popular, or more easily accessible areas, such as the Southern Crossing, PowellJumbo Circuit and the Northern Crossing are all served by excellent huts and, given the nature of the topography and weather, serve as the primary accommodation options due to limited suitable camping areas. These huts not only serve as safe havens from adverse weather, but they also provide critical information points. The opportunity to provide highly specific, location-based information in these huts should be maximised. The information provided could utilise the typically bare internal wall space, catering to an audience who will likely be stopping for an overnight stay, and who have the time and opportunity to read and reflect on the information provided. A highly visual approach to displaying and communicating this information is essential.

WHY WILL THIS REDUCE INCIDENTS

This information will provide relevant location-specific information, enabling better decision making, assessment and awareness of key risks or hazards in that location. This also promotes appropriate alternative options in adverse weather. ISSUES WHICH THIS SOLUTION AIMS TO SUPPRESS » Lack of sufficient experience » Poor navigational skills » Overambitious choice of route » Took longer than expected STAGE OF THE PARTICIPANT JOURNEY

EASE OF IMPLEMENTATION EASY

MED

HARD

The type of information that could be included covers: » Nearby track options with high quality maps » Realistic distances and times to the next key features e.g. the next hut or track junction » Descriptions of the track ahead e.g. the nature of the terrain, what to expect, key hazards or decision-making points » Guidance to support effective decision-making e.g. if the conditions are X then we recommend you do Y.

It is important to remember that although hut visitors are already on their trip, it does not mean their safety cannot be influenced through the provision of quality and timely information and guidance.

Above: Totara Flats Hut, Tararua Ranges with a concept placement for safety information.

AGREED NEXT STEPS

DOC and MSC agree this is a good idea. Work will begin to consider how this might work.

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report


8. Public observation and conditions reporting tool public information sharing nature of the tool. Like MetService, the partnership and data sharing agreements already exist between DOC and MSC to achieve this.

ISSUES WHICH THIS SOLUTION AIMS TO SUPPRESS

These personal observations and experiences, when combined with other users’ observations, make for a highly detailed, place-based data set. Observations relating to track conditions, damaged infrastructure (signs, track marker poles, huts, toilets), safety hazards or concerns, the state of river crossings, sites of incidents etc. all make up useful information that can be reported, shared, and used by others researching or planning their trip.

Very similar examples already exist, and while they may not provide an exact template for this tool, they do provide examples of similar functions and help to visualise the intent of this proposed solution. The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory public observation tool is 1 one NZ example , and the Washington 2 State Trails Association provides one international example.

STAGE OF THE PARTICIPANT JOURNEY

Currently, other than sharing this information with family or friends, posting about it on social media or calling DOC, there is no way to share this information on a widely available, easily accessible public platform.

This tool, while specifically included here in relation to the Tararua Ranges focused work, would have application across all Public Conservation Land (including that of DOC and Council authorities) and could be used for multiple recreation activities across all outdoor recreation locations.

Each time a user returns from a trip into the Tararua Ranges they return with a range of location-specific information gathered through their experience.

This proposed solution calls for the development of a digital public observation and conditions reporting tool that allows for both public user submissions and public user interaction and sharing. This would create an effective way to communicate timely and relevant knowledge amongst the user community.

The tool could utilise simple digital integration with the likes of MetService weather forecasts or watches and warnings, providing additional promotion of critical safety information. These partnerships and data transfer agreements already exist between the MSC and MetService. Additionally, the tool could incorporate, or integrate with, the official DOC alerts function, again providing an additional promotion of this information which would be complemented by the very

» Overambitious choice of route » Took longer than expected

EASE OF IMPLEMENTATION

Medium – the primary challenge to implementation would be funding the initial development and on-going promotion EASY

MED

HARD

Below: Mountainhub is a crowd-sourced Information app for outdoor participants. See and share real-time observations for outdoor activities such as track conditions and alpine conditions.

WHY WILL THIS REDUCE INCIDENTS

This tool would provide people with an additional information source, equipping them with greater locationbased and time sensitive knowledge that they can apply to their planning and expectations. User-generated data is eagerly sought by people when in planning/research mode. This will help to establish realistic track walking times, challenges they can expect to encounter on their planned route and provide a better picture for people of what conditions they should expect to encounter. 1. https://avalanche.net.nz/ 2. https://www.wta.org/

AGREED NEXT STEPS

MSC will incorporate functionality into the app they are building.

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

22


Next Steps Following feedback from the Reference Group and DOC, representatives of MSC and DOC met in August 2020 to discuss the proposed solutions contained within this report. The parties mutually agreed there is an intention to progress most of these ideas towards implementation. A summary is presented below each solution. The advisory function process is now complete. Each solution now has its own project plan. For further updates on this work please contact the Mountain Safety Council.

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report


Acknowledgments MSC and DOC wish to thank the Advisory Group for their significant investment of time and energy. They are: Associate Professor Darren Walton, Evaluation consultant | Crow's Nest Research Associate Professor James E Richard, Marketing | Victoria University of Wellington Harriette Carr, Public Health Medicine Specialist | Ministry Of Health Ivan Andrews, Student | Victoria University of Wellington Julian Tovey, Search and Rescue Officer | Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand Keri Devine, Principal Consultant | Progressive Safety Limited Michael Mills, Mechanical Design Engineer | Aurecon Nicole Ranger, Meteorologist | MetService New Zealand Seanoa Isaac, Architectural Designer | Sandpit Architectural Design Steve Sutton, Senior Visitor Advisor | Department of Conservation

NZ MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL | 2020

24


#MakeItHomeNZ

mountainsafety.org.nz

Tararua Ranges | Issue Specific Advisory Group Report