Fecal matters on Mt Taranaki spark concerns

Fecal matters on Mt Taranaki spark concerns

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has a bit of a poo problem on its hands.

As Mt Taranaki becomes increasingly popular with climbers, more human waste is being left behind.

Building a toilet at height is not an option, so the proposed solution is for visitors to carry their own waste away.

It's a view that thousands of people each year make the strenuous five-hour climb for.

But after such a long hike, plenty of climbers find they need to relieve themselves – on Mt Taranaki's sacred summit.

The problem's now so bad that DOC and local iwi want it to be compulsory for climbers to bag their own waste and carry it out, with the option of a poo pot sold for $7 on the NZ Alpine Club website.

Some visitors to the mountain today were open to the idea, while others were unsure.

One person compared it to bagging their dog's poo, and said it wouldn't be much different.

Another said people probably wouldn't go through with it.

One climbing expert, Rob Needs, wants a permit system to be introduced, similar to Mt Everest and the Inca Trail.

"As a guiding company our guides carry poo pots to carry out human waste, and a permit system will allow the education and almost enforcement of those kinds of scenarios," he says.

New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young says he understands Mr Needs' concerns, but says a permit won't work because the mountain is a national park so must be freely accessible.

He said the solution is to educate climbers and promote the use of poo pots.

Mr Needs says the piles of poo shows the need to deal with the wider problem of uneducated climbers.

"Safety [education is needed], making sure people are aware of the weather changes, environmental education regarding the toileting behaviour and a cultural education," he says.

Footage shot by the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter shows the summit's rocky terrain – you can't bury waste, and the altitude means it doesn't break down.

Iwi view the mountain as a living ancestor and say climbers need to sharpen up their act.

DOC says it encourages all users of the national park to bag their own poo.

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