Topo50 map boundaries and Wellington

This post is my attempt to make sense of where the significant boundaries lie in the replacement 1:50000 Topo50 map series pushed out by Land Information New Zealand last September to replace the old 260 series. I can’t guarantee how much if it will be useful, but as always comments, feedback and experienced elaboration are welcome.

A couple of weeks ago, I took part in a bulk order of the new Topo50 maps, which replace the old 260 series that’s been in publication for several decades until now. I’m now the owner of 18 Topo50 maps to get me started, having picked up most of them for $3.50 each, around half the usual retail price. You can get this price (which includes GST but not postage) if you have a bulk order or 20 or more maps direct from LINZ, which makes it useful for clubs or groups of friends who know in advance what they want. I wrote about these maps last year, including more detail about why it’s actually happening and what the main changes are. The new maps have a couple of obvious differences:

  • They’re smaller. All maps are now metric A1 size. This means they fit less information, but they should also fit more nicely into other equipment that takes metric paper sizes such as photocopiers and satchels. Smaller maps also means less to carry, unless you happen to be crossing map boundaries (which is more likely). Another side effect is that the boundaries between maps have shifted all over the place. Some areas fit more nicely into the Topo50 map boundaries, whereas others definitely don’t.
  • The map grid has changed, which means all reference coordinates have changed. This is the most important reason why LINZ wants people to start using new maps, so as to reduce confusion between the old and new map grids.

Strictly speaking it’s no longer necessary to buy the maps at all. LINZ now makes them downloadable, letting people with adequate facilities print their own and mix and match the parts they want. Personally I still prefer to go with the standard pre-printed maps, mostly because I trust the consistency of production, with an idea of how the paper and toner will last, knowing that every map will have coordinates properly produced, and so on.

I possibly haven’t broken these regions into the same segments that everyone else would have, but a few notes about the various regions are:

Wellington Old maps: R27, R28 & Pt. Q27 (Wellington), R26 & Pt. R25 (Paraparaumu). New maps: BQ31 (Wellington), BQ32 (Lower Hutt), BP32 (Paraparaumu) for the northern-most part.

In the 260 series, the bulk of the Wellington region used to exist on a single map titled “R27, R28 & Pt. Q27“, of which R27 was the main component and the other two parts were tacked on to two different edges making it an unusually large 260 map. Further north up to Waikanae, including Kapiti Island was on another spliced-together map. These inconsistent sizes splattered around the system were one of the things making the 260 series more expensive to produce. The Wellington map contained all of Te Kopohau Reserve, Makara and the coast up to Porirua, all of Belmont Regional Park, everything around the Hutt Valley and the bulk of the Orongorongos and Rimutaka Range as far as the south coast, with a tiny part of the southern Wairarapa on the edge (really only Lake Oneke). The northern map (which I’ve rarely used) contained Kapiti Island, most of the Akatarawas, and a slight fringe of the Tararuas east of the Akatarawa Road between Upper Hutt and Waikanae.

In the Topo50 series, the same region now crosses three main maps. Map BQ31 (Wellington) covers all of Wellington out to the Cook Straight on the south and west, but only extends north to about Tawa (not as far as Porirua) and east-wards doesn’t quite reach Petone. Pencarrow Head juts into the eastern edge of the map, but apart from this none of the Eastbourne side of Wellington Harbour reaches this map. All of Lower Hutt and the bulk of the Orongorongos and Rimutaka Range is drawn on map BQ32 (Lower Hutt), although without as much to the north. The eastern edge of this map is roughly the same as the old 260 Wellington map, just reaching Lake Oneke. Everything north of Tawa, and still reaching about the same fringe of the Tararuas, is now on BP32 (Paraparaumu). Most of Kapiti Island appears on this map, but the north end with Waiorua Bay is chopped off. If you specifically care about the north end of Kapiti Island, it’s worth noting that Topo50 map BN32ptBP32 has been intentionally shifted south to overlap, and includes all of Kapiti Island. (I don’t own this map.)

Tararuas Old maps: S26 (Carterton) for the southern end, S25 (Levin) for the northern end. New maps: BP33 (Featherston), BP34 (Masterton), BN33 (Levin), BN34 (Shannon).

I think the Tararuas lost out with the new map divisions. In the 260 series nearly the entire range was nicely covered by two maps, but now there’s a mixture of mountain range, flat farms and populated towns and coastal areas. I was going to take my new maps into the Tararuas last weekend, but took the old ones instead when I realised our stint on the middle part of the main range was going to cross three different maps. The route just fitted the old maps so much more nicely.

All of the Southern Crossing region fits into BP33 (Featherston), which also seems to be the most filled-up of these maps as far as tramping regions go. It also includes the Southern Main Range right up to Anderson, and (nearly) all of the route down to Waitewaewae Hut. The map extends north to Otaki Forks and Waitewaewae Hut, about the same line as the old map. It’s the east-west split where things get annoying, as the Featherston map only extends as far east as Mt Holdsworth and much of the Totara Creek track. If you want a map that includes places like Holdsworth Lodge, Mountain House and Powell Hut, you’ll also need to get map BP34 (Masterton), which is mostly farm-land but includes this corner of the Tararuas and also the Barra Track up to Mitre Flats (but not Mitre). That whole area falls into a frustrating network of map boundaries. If you wanted to head further north to somewhere like Cow Creek, or up over Three Kings or Mitre on the tops, you’d find yourself getting onto yet another map, BN34 (Shannon).

Much of the northern end of the Tararuas falls on map BN34 (Shannon). The souther end of this map falls a little further south than the Kiriwhakapapa Shelter and North King. The Shannon map includes pretty much all of the Northern Main Range, north-west of Arete and past Dundas, down past Herepai Hut or onward into the leatherwood-laden hell-hole towards the Mangahao Dams. West of Arete, it’s necessary to switch to map BN33 (Levin), which includes most of Carkeek and Dorset Ridges on the far east, most of the middle Main Range, and Oriwa Ridge.

Ruahines Old maps: T23 (Kimbolton), U23 (Dannevirke), T22 (Mangaweka), U22 (Ongaonga), U21 (Kereru). New maps: BL36 (Norsewood), BK36 (Taoroa Junction), BK37 (Tikokino).

I haven’t really visited enough of the Ruahines to know where all the best bits are, but at face value I think the area’s done much better for map boundaries in Topo50 than it did in the 260 series. The Ruahines are long and thin (especially at the southern end), and trend diagonally up the North Island, at least compared with the map sheet indeces. In the 260 series, the range crossed at least 5 maps, possibly more, but often only cutting corners or scraping edges of the maps. For instance, the walk into Heritage Lodge or Rangiwahia Hut occurs on the far east of map T22 (Mangaweka) — a map which is almost entirely farmland irrelevant to the range. Further east, the bulk of the Ruahine Range at that latitude falls onto U22 (Ongaonga), but still only uses 1/3 of the map surface. Further south, most of the range fell diagonally across T23 (Kimbolton), but just cuts the corner of U23 (Dannevirke), and that could have been annoying for anyone wanting to walk across to any of the 6 huts marked on that tiny corner of the Dannevirke map. Towards the northern end, map U21 (Kereru) was actually reasonably full of Ruahine Range area.

The reason I think the Ruahines win so much under Topo50 is because the west and east map boundaries are placed to fit the full width of the range so much more nicely than in the old maps. About the same area for which I needed 5 large maps with lots of farmland is now covered by 3 smaller maps of mostly mountain range. The thinner parts of the range around Rangiwahia, Heritage and further south now have the entire width of the range falling within a single map — in this case BL36 (Norsewood). The two maps further north and north-east, BK36 (Taoroa Junction) and BK37 (Tikokino) cover the whole area up the Ruahine Main Range, and out to the edges on both sides without huge amounts of extra.

Aorangis Old map: S28 (Palliser). New maps: BQ33 (Lake Wairarapa), BR33 (Ngawi).

The Aorangi Range, mostly a hunter’s playground on the south-east coast of the North Island, used to be entirely on one map. I guess there’s a slight loss here because it’s now mostly on two. The southern border of map BQ33 falls just south of the Putangirua Pinnacles, which is a starting point for a trip I’ve now done twice, to walk south from there out to Cape Palliser. Both maps have a lot of wasted space outside the mountain range, but at least the whole range does seem to be covered on just two maps, though, and it doesn’t get more complex.

Mt Taranaki / Egmont Old maps: P20 (Egmont), plus a few extras around the edges. New maps: BJ29 (Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont), BH29 (New Plymouth).

Most of Mt Taranaki/Egmont used to fit on P20 (Egmont), with the exception of a couple of edges of the national park falling onto P19 (New Plymouth) or Q20 (Stratford). The design of Egmont National Park, I think, means that those two edge maps often wouldn’t have been relevant anyway, simply because they mostly involve just the beginning of well define tracks up to the mountain in the middle, and also because the Park has several roads leading up to the inner section in which many people start their activities regardless. Consequently it was often possible to get by in all of Egmont with a single map.

In the Topo50 maps, I think the boundaries become slightly less efficient. There is still a single map, BJ29 (Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont) that covers the central cone of the mountain. Most of the national park is restricted to the north-west corner of this map, however, and the entirety of the Pouakai Range to the north east has been cut off. To get the park in its entirety, it’d be necessary to obtain three more maps: BJ28 (Opunake), BH29 (New Plymouth) and possibly BH28 (Oakura). I don’t own any of these, but might get them in the next bulk order I take part in.

I have a few other maps scattered around, but this covers the main Wellington-based regions I tend to spend most time tramping in. If you’d like a look at the boundaries for yourself without leaving the internet, LINZ has published map sheet guides for the new map series, including comparisons between where the old sheets and new sheets lie. My current favourite way to check out the Topo50 map extents online, however, is to visit and search for “Topo50”, switch on the Topo50 map layer, zoom around to find what I want, then toggle the Topo50 sheet index layer to see which map it’s on.

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