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The Wakatipu Area comprises a large area of Otago’s western mountains. It includes a range of ecosystems, such as the beech forests of Mt. Aspiring National Park and the Caples and Greenstone Valleys, the shrublands of the Remarkables and Hector Mountains and the extensive tussocklands of the Richardson Mountains and Shotover district.
A total area of approximately 347,000 hectares of conservation estate is currently available for open hunting in Otago, and many other areas are available for restricted hunting. In addition, more conservation areas will become available as new conservation lands are gazetted through the ongoing Pastoral Lease Tenure Review process. Wild animal populations in Otago are generally at low to moderate levels. This is largely the result of extensive commercial helicopter hunting for deer, chamois and thar, particularly in the western mountains. In addition, the Department has undertaken sustained goat control in all areas since 1990 and maintains a thar buffer zone between the Haast Highway and the Fiordland National Park. Regardless of overall levels, however, good localised hunting opportunities exist among many diverse landscapes.

Hunting in Mount Aspiring National Park - Wakatipu area
All of the following areas are part of Mt Aspiring National Park, and are administered from the Wakatipu Area Office:

Beans Burn and Rock Burn

Takes in the Beans Burn and Rock Burn catchments, and is bordered by the Dart River and the Humboldt Mountains north to Poseidon (2208m), Niobe (2204m) and Tantalus Peak (1951m). Comprises beech forested valleys and terraces with subalpine and alpine vegetation on the tops. Although there is no hut in the Beans Burn there is a rock bivvy near First Flat. Access to the Beans Burn is usually via the Routeburn-Kinloch Road to Weka Flat, then by track to Lake Sylvan and continuing north through open beech terraces along the Dart to the Rock Burn. There is an 8 bunk hut at the mouth of the Rock Burn (also known as McIntyres). A bridge crosses an impressive canyon above the hut. From here, sidle the hill and follow the Dart River to the Beans Burn. Alternatively, Dart River Safaris operate a jet boat service up the Dart in the summer. This would eliminate any river crossings and they can drop you at the mouth of the Beans Burn.No hunting is allowed in the area bordered by the Dart River, the Route Burn and Lake Sylvan due to it being a high use area by trampers.The Rock Burn can be popular with trampers as an alternative from the Routeburn, with routes leading from the Rock Burn to the North Routeburn, the Olivine River, and the Beans Burn. Animal numbers, vegetation and terrain are similar to those in the Beans Burn. Like many of the valleys in Mt Aspiring National Park there are large boulders and rock overhangs that can be used as shelters. Access to the Rock Burn is via the Routeburn-Kinloch Road to either the beginning of the Lake Sylvan track or to the Routeburn day shelter and over Sugarloaf Pass.

Routeburn North Branch
No hunting is allowed in the main Routeburn valley as it is a high use tramping area. The rifle bolt must be removed while in the main Routeburn valley.The North Branch is dotted with huge bluffs, particularly on the true left. Access is via the Routeburn-Kinloch Road to the Routeburn shelter. From there, take the Routeburn track to the Routeburn Flat hut (sleeps 20) where the North Branch joins the Routeburn.

Rees Valley
Rees Valley, Mount Aspiring National Park. Photo: Keith Springer.
Rees Valley, Mount Aspiring National
ParkThis includes land within MANP, from Lennox Falls to Black Peak, along the tops of the Forbes Mountains to Mt Cunningham, then down the park boundary beside the Rees River. It includes the Hunter Creek catchment. Much of the area is subalpine and alpine vegetation and terrain. Beech forest is confined to the lower slopes of Hunter Creek and Cattle Slip faces, alongside the Rees River. Access is via the Rees Valley Road to the Muddy Creek carpark. The Rees Track provides access up the valley. Huts in the area include Earnslaw hut, (sleeps 4) near Lennox Creek, with a rock bivvy further upstream.

Upper Dart
This area takes in the Upper Dart catchment and valley north of Daleys Flat Hut, up to Mt Ansted and Cascade Saddle, and across to the tops of the Barrier Range. Beech forest is confined to the terraces and lower slopes in the mid-section of the valley, with the catchment head predominantly sub-alpine and alpine vegetation. The Dart Track follows the Dart River and crosses into the Rees from above Dart Hut. Another route provides access via Cascade Saddle into the West Matukituki. The area is popular with trampers taking in the Dart-Rees circuit. Dart Hut (sleeps 20) is at the foot of Mt Cunningham and Daleys Flat Hut (sleeps 20) is midway up the Dart valley. Access is by air, jetboat or on foot up the Dart Valley.

This is a very large area taking in part of the Arawhata catchment that lies within Mt Aspiring National Park. It includes the Joe River, the Five Fingers Range, and the Olivine Range. As well as the major peaks and alpine zone, terrain includes some very large grassy flats. Most of the area lies within the Wilderness Zone, and as such there are no huts, tracks or bridges and no aircraft landings are permitted. As it is on the western side of the main divide it has typical Fiordland/West Coast weather and vegetation. Hunters are asked to report any thar sightings in this area as it is part of the southern exclusion zone, a buffer zone protecting Fiordland National Park from thar ingress.

This is mountainous terrain in the western reaches of Mt Aspiring National Park, bordered by the Barrier Range and the Olivine Range in the east and includes the Forgotten River and the headwaters of the Barrier and Pyke rivers. All of the area falls within the Park’s Wilderness Zone. Access can be gained from the eastern side by walking overland for a number of days, or via Te Anau and the Hollyford and Pyke Rivers. There are no huts, tracks or bridges, providing a truly remote experience. This area is also on the western side of the main divide, so experiences Fiordland/West Coast climate and vegetation conditions.

Hunting outside Mount Aspiring National Park - Wakatipu area

Upper Shotover Conservation Area (9356ha)
Takes in the northern Richardson Mountains and includes the headwaters of the Upper Shotover from Mt Bowyang, north along the tops to Mt Ferguson at 2484m, Centaur Peaks at 2525m and Lochnagar at 2542m. On the northern boundary it joins Mt Aspiring National Park near Mt Tindall. The area lies above 1000m and comprises subalpine and alpine vegetation with extensive bluffs. It includes the headwaters of the Glencairn, Sixty-mile and Lochnagar creeks. Access is mainly by air from the Matukituki Valley, or by foot via the Rees Valley or Branches Station; the latter requires landowner permission. The river valleys are pastoral lease land and no hunting is allowed.

Black Peak Conservation Area (2650 ha)
Covers the northern headwaters of the Shotover River, the Shiel Burn tops and the Polnoon Burn tops. Very mountainous terrain with high peaks, alpine benches and extensive, steep bluffs. Vegetation is alpine and subalpine. Access is generally by air from the north via the Matukituki Valley. Foot access is available via the Leaping Burn (permission required from the owners of Matukituki Station). Foot access to the Shiel Burn and Polnoon Burn tops can be gained through Branches Station in the Shotover valley (landowner permission required).

Ballarat Creek Conservation Area (600ha)
Adjoins Mt Aurum Recreation Reserve and covers a series of ridges running into Ballarat Creek and the Flood Burn. Ballarat Hut is on a terrace approximately a third of the way up Ballarat Creek. Access is via The Branches Road to the confluence of the Flood Burn and the Shotover River.

Lower Dart (4600ha)
Covers the broad expanse of the Lower Dart valley from Bride Peaks and Mt Head down to Mt Earnslaw (2820m) and the mouth of the Beansburn. Terrain and vegetation covers the full montage of snow tussock, red, silver, and mountain beech forest, and sub-alpine and alpine tops. There is a moratorium on shooting whitetail deer between Chinaman’s Bluff and the Earnslaw Burn, and Mt Alfred. There is a 20 bunk hut at Daleys Flat in the Dart Valley (hut tickets required). Access to this area is via the Glenorchy-Paradise Road.

The Slip Stream (Te Koroka Topuni) area is adjacent to the lower Dart on the true right and includes Slip Stream and the Cosmos Peaks areas. No access is allowed into this sacred area without a special permit.

Places to stay
You can stay in a Department of Conservation managed hut in Wakatipu's hunting areas.

Ballarat Hut - Flood Burn
This is a basic three-bunk hut in the Wakatipu area.

Daleys Flat Hut

This is a serviced 20-bunk hut in the Wakitipu area.

Earnslaw Hut

This is a basic four-bunk hut in the Wakatipu area.

Routeburn Flats Hut

This is a 20-bunk hut located on the Routeburn Track in the Wakitipu area.
Rockburn Hut/ McIntyres Hut
This is a basic four-bunk hut in the Wakatipu area.

Hunting permits
To hunt on public conservation land you require a permit issued by the Department of Conservation (DOC). This is required under Section 38 of the Conservation Act 1987.

Hunting permits in Otago are issued under an open system. This means that permits are valid for all open hunting areas in Otago Conservancy for a period of 12 months, excluding the ‘Roar’ (20 March - 20 April).

During the Roar, block hunting permits are required in some areas, while others will remain open. It is therefore very important that you confirm the status of a hunting area with the relevant Area Office or Field Centre well in advance of any trips during the Roar. For example, in the Wanaka Area Roar block applications will be accepted at the Area office from 1 November and issued in early February each year.

Some areas have restricted access because of public safety, the size of the area or some other reason. A short term block permit is available for each restricted area from the local DOC office. Examples of hunting areas that have restricted access are the Bendigo Scenic Reserve, small reserves in the Catlins, Mt Aurum Recreation Reserve (Skippers), Twelve Mile (Mt Crichton Scenic Reserve), and Kinloch/Kowhai Bush (near Glenorchy). Again, you will need to confirm the availability of these areas during the Roar with the local DOC office.

If you are a new hunter you will have to register on the DOC database. For this we need to view your firearms licence and take other details like address, phone number, vehicle registration number, make and colour. Application forms are available at all Otago DOC offices. You can bring your firearms licence in to the DOC office or send a faxed copy of it, or a scanned image via e-mail. Your permit will then be mailed to you.

Please note that landing permits are required to land all aircraft in designated areas of Mt Aspiring National Park and on all public conservation lands.

* Hunting permits apply to wild animal hunting only. This includes feral deer, goats, pigs, chamois, thar, rabbits and hares. It excludes possums and game birds.

* Permits are only for public conservation land, including National Park areas.

* Hunters must obtain landowner permission before crossing private land.

* Animal pest control operations using deadly poisons may take place at any time on public conservation land. These operations are specified in pesticide summaries published every 4 months and are available from all DOC offices. For your safety, please read the caution notes and disclaimers in the pesticide summary.

* Separate permits are required for game bird shooting and possum hunting on public conservation land. These are available at all Area Offices.

* No dogs are allowed in the Mt Aspiring National Park and the permission of the landowner is required wherever access to a conservation area is gained through private land.