The Queen Charlotte Track, while not an official Great Walk, is considered pretty great by the thousands of walkers and mountain bikers that experience all or part of it each year. But what makes it truly special, is the plethora of partnerships that turn the track from great to awesome…
The 70 kilometre track could almost be considered one of DOC’s original partnerships, with its management involving the Marlborough District Council and 10 private landowners. The landowners are represented by the Queen Charlotte Track Landowners Co-operative who work closely with DOC and Marlborough District Council in maintaining the track.
The landowners were the driving force in creating the track. In the early 1980s the Commissioner of Crown Lands proposed the idea of a track along the Kenepuru Ridge to landowner Rod Eatwell, and much of the work to form the walkway was done by Rod and his neighbours.
By 1985 funding became scarce and parts of the track were closed. Undeterred, the landowners continued to keep the section between Black Rock and Punga Cove free of gorse. The landowners continue today to look at ways of enhancing visitor’s experience, and have provided seats, tables and signs, all in the landowner cooperative’s unique style.
Alongside DOC and the Queen Charlotte Track Landowners Co-operative, sits the QCTInc. This is the marketing arm for track operators who provide accommodation, food, guiding companies and water taxi’s, and they do a fantastic job at promoting the track.
DOC is also currently completing a three-year partnership with Yealands Family Wines who have sponsored $75,000 for interpretation panels and website stories for the track. They have also provided over $30,000 a year from sales of its new ECO wine range to support biosecurity on predator-free islands in the Marlborough Sounds.
The new interpretation project is based on the idea of consultation. Designer Janet Bathgate has come up with a complex jigsaw of stories based around the landscape features people could see from the numerous lookouts along the track. The result is stunning – over 50 stories are carefully interwoven around 3D maps.
Approximately 12000 visitors walk or bike the entire Queen Charlotte Track, and many more visit smaller sections as it travels alongside the Queen Charlotte Sound. These track users probably remain largely oblivious to the intricate relationships that make the track work, but the scenery and assets along the track will provide them with a unique experience they will remember long after the blisters heal.