Trampers who visit nine Great Walks huts within a two-month period will be able to bag their tenth hut free of charge, DOC has announced this morning. The new digital Hut Loyalty Card hopes to be a sweetener for the recently announced price increases for Great Walks huts. From July 1, hut and campsite prices will increase by 18 per cent, a move that has drawn backlash from the largely middle-class tramping community.

To qualify for a free stay at their tenth hut, trampers will be required to register for a digital Hut Loyalty Card and scan a QR code at each hut. They are also encouraged to upload a selfie at the hut and post it on social media under the hashtag #tenthhutfree

A spokesperson for DOC said the initiative would provide an incentive for families to get outdoors, as well as increasing visits to huts. “We love that customers are engaging with our incredible outdoors product, and we hope families across the country take this opportunity to bag as many huts as they can.”

Speedy trampers who manage to bag all 27 huts on the Great Walks during the month of April will also receive a limited edition Great Walks T-shirt plus a $50 Warehouse voucher.

The Hut Loyalty initiative hasn’t been universally well received, however, with Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand warning the ‘buy nine get one free’ scheme could encourage people to take unnecessary safety risks as they rush to bag the huts.

“Hut are not cups of coffee, and national parks are not cafes,” a spokesperson said. “This doesn’t solve the problem of ordinary middle-class families being priced out of Great Walks. Money is often tight after families have spent a thousand dollars on ultra-breathable, thermo-regulating active-wear, portable coffee machines and other assorted nic-nacs from outdoor shops. Expecting them to shell out $22 for a bunk after they’ve just spent $139 on an AeroPress and $225 on a set of insulated travel mugs with built-in speakers and Bluetooth capability is totally unrealistic.”

The FMC spokesperson added that there was a danger people may resort to staying in some of the other 900 or so non-Great Walks huts. “We’d hate to see ordinary middle-class families discover that there are tramps in Aotearoa that aren’t Great Walks.”

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