Limited access to the East Taupo Lands Block in the Kaimanawas

It’s great to see in the March 2014 (#195) Federated Mountain Clubs Bulletin that FMC has managed to negotiate some limited access, at least for FMC affiliates, to the East Taupo Lands Block that’s located in the middle of the Kaimanawa Range.

Some years ago, I wrote about some frustrations with the property line divisions in the Kaimanawas. For the uninitiated, the range has a size-able block of private land cut out of the middle of it, which effectively divides the east of the park from the west. I appreciate that the private land and how it’s operated is a consequence of more complex issues, but the straight-line boundaries between that and the Kaimanawa Forest Park which surrounds it are a combination of straight-edged squares and triangles that pay little attention to the mountainous geography. They create a buffer zone of public land in some places where it;s less practical than it could otherwise be to access that public land without crossing borders of private land.

For example, as can be seen on the Walking Access Mapping System, there’s ridge south of Waipakihi Hut, which looks as if it could be very nice to explore towards spot-height .1660, but the route is blocked by the metaphoric brick wall of a 200 metre stretch of private land. It exists thanks to the lazily plotted corner of a triangle that happens to just reach over the top of that ridge.

Waipakihi Hut, backgrounded by its border with the East Taupo Land Block.

At the time I wrote my earlier rant, Air Charter Taupo was then leasing the block of land to use for premium hunting and fishing access. On the side, the company allowed for a restricted system of permits for trampers to cross the block from one side of the park to the other, along a specific route, as long as a permit was paid for and as long as no overnight camping occurred. This access was unfortunately lost when Air Charter Taupo lost its lease in 2011. Once that happened, the East Taupo Lands Trust, which controls the land on behalf of its owners, decided not to retain the access permit system for trampers and instead focus solely on the premium hunting and fishing.

The latest news, however, is that Federated Mountain Clubs has been negotiating with Helisika (current leasee of the block) and has been able to arrange for its affiliated club members and individual supporters to have access.

Overall, this is an excellent outcome under the circumstances, and I appreciate the commitment from those involved in both FMC and Helisika.

To tramp across the block as an FMC affiliate, it’s necessary to request specific permission and then approval will be considered according to the hunting and fishing clients in the area at the time. With the new arrangement, there are several particular routes being nominated, but unlike the previous permit system there should be no additional charge. It may be necessary to submit a detailed plan, and all members of a party will be required to be carry their FMC membership cards, and possibly provide details of them.

It’s not my dream scenario in the sense of having free and open exploration to the mountains for all, but I appreciate there are additional issues to work around. It’s great that FMC and Helisika have been able to negotiate this limited access for once again enabling the connectivity between both sides of the park.

It’s a shame that it’s only for Federated Mountain Clubs affiliates at this time, but FMC has to represent the people who directly support it before everyone else. It’s probably also much easier to negotiate an arrangement when FMC puts its reputation on the line in this way, with implicit vouching that its affiliates will treat the land well and abide by the requested conditions, compared with trying to get free and open access for any random person.

If you want to take advantage of this access, but cannot or don’t wish to join a local FMC-affiliated club, it’s still possible to join Federated Mountain Clubs directly as an individual supporter for $35/year. This is only slightly more than the $30 which was originally charged by Air Charter Taupo for a more restrictive access permit.

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