An Ill-founded Monopoly

Walkers' Exclusive Possession of All the Tracks in New Zealand's National Parks

Pete McDonald.


A submission to the Draft General Policy National Parks Act of August 2003.

In 1900 the mountaineer Arthur P Harper was prospecting a gold claim just north of the mouth of the Haast River. He decided to return to Christchurch partly by bicycle, via the Haast Pass. His trek, following the horse track, was probably the pioneer bicycle crossing of the Haast.

Harper left his beach at 7.30am. The Haast River and the creeks were still up after a week's rain and the bridle track was in a bad state. The bike was an encumbrance. Harper met a variation on the familiar theme of New Zealand river-bashing: he waded through mud and water and, on encountering bluffs, he carried the bike along the diversions through the bush. Later he wrote:

'To make matters worse the creeks had bad "wash-outs" which had not been repaired for some years. These necessitated lowering the bike down a sheer drop of six to ten feet and hoisting it up on the other bank. One doesn't realise, until one tries, how difficult it is to hoist a bicycle up a sheer face of even eight feet.'

The first 25 miles, to Clarke Bluff, at the junction of the Haast and Landsborough Rivers, took him twelve hours.

He left Clarke Bluff at 4.45 the next morning. The going was slightly better, with riverbeds and flats on which to wheel the bicycle. But the fords were still rather high.

'A kea or two became very annoying, due partly to the fact that when pushing the bike I inadvertently rang the bell; this made them extraordinarily angry for some reason … Through the bush over the Pass the track was easy to follow, but being a horse track it was too narrow for both me and the bike, thus one had to either walk on the rough hillside so as to wheel the machine along the track, or walk on the track and carry it.'

The 35 miles from Clarke Bluff to the head of Lake Wanaka took fifteen hours. The next day Harper caught a steamer to Pembroke [Wanaka]. Then followed an all-night ride of 130 miles to the railhead at Lawrence, where he caught a train to Dunedin.

Arthur Harper's achievement was just one of numerous arduous expeditions accomplished by New Zealand's early cycle tourists. Cross-country cycling has a long New Zealand history and deserves a place in our outdoor ethos. But the National Parks Act 1980 led to bicycles being banned from all the tracks in national parks.

'An Ill-founded Monopoly' was a submission to the Draft General Policy National Parks Act of August 2003. The submission argued that mountain-biking was a healthy, unintrusive, and nonpolluting outdoor recreation, compatible with the fundamental principles of the National Parks Act 1980, especially Section 4, which stated that parks should 'be maintained in natural state, and public to have right of entry'. Therefore, it argued, the General Policy should recognise mountain-biking as a permissible recreation within national parks, on designated tracks.

December 2003.

An Ill-founded Monopoly (534 KB, twenty-nine A4 pages).

Back to top
Home
Email me

An Ill-founded Monopoly (534 KB, twenty-nine A4 pages).

Mountain-biking is a healthy, unintrusive, and nonpolluting outdoor recreation, compatible with the fundamental principles of the National Parks Act 1980, especially Section 4, which states that parks should 'be maintained in natural state, and public to have right of entry'.

'Vision for an Active New Zealand. That all New Zealanders will have recognised and valued their fundamental right to an active lifestyle.'

From Getting Set for an Active Nation: Report of the Sport, Fitness and Leisure Ministerial Taskforce (Wellington, NZ: The Taskforce, 2001).