DoC suspicious as number of Kiwis walking Abel Tasman track doubles

The number of New Zealanders booking to walk the Abel Tasman track has doubled following the Department of Conservation's (DoC's) decision to hike fees for overseas visitors.

The Abel Tasman is by far New Zealand's most popular walking track with over 300,000 visitors a year - its beauty known the world over.

But this year, overseas visitors are being charged twice as much as New Zealanders to stay in the bunks along the way.

"It's a system that's designed to self-select for honesty - it's a new booking system using new software because there were some problems last year," Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says.

"I hope people will be honest."

DoC is expecting to raise an extra $2.9 million from the seven-month trial, which will double the fee for international visitors booking huts on the Abel Tasman, Kepler, Routeburn and Milford tracks. 

Walkers are asked to register where they live, but the booking forms don't ask trampers to prove it. Instead, they're warned they could be asked for identification at random by DoC rangers.

"Look I don't think there's any other way of doing it - the department have good staff, they've got wardens in the huts," Federated Mountain Club President Peter Wilson says.

Overall opening day bookings for the Abel Tasman Track are already up from 551 last year to 811 this year.

Kiwi bookings have doubled, while international bookings are down by 20 percent. However, Ms Sage admits international visitors' bookings could be masquerading as Kiwis. 

"There may be some people around the fringes, but it relies on honesty."

The truth as to who is a Kiwi and who is not will be known over the summer months, as rangers check the identification of trampers walking the Abel Tasman track.