Coronavirus: Department of Conservation to introduce COVID-19 QR posters at all high-use huts, facilities

Mintaro Hut on the Milford Track - one of New Zealand's most popular walks - now has a QR poster.
Mintaro Hut on the Milford Track - one of New Zealand's most popular walks - now has a QR poster. Photo credit: Department of Conservation / Supplied

The Department of Conservation (DoC) will introduce QR codes in huts and facilities in popular areas after New Zealand's first community COVID-19 case in 67 days was detected over the weekend.

The move will see QR codes, which Kiwis can scan to log their movements using the NZ COVID Tracer app, become available at Great Walk huts and other serviced huts. They will also be displayed at toilets and shelters at high-use road ends.

Previously, DoC had only made them mandatory at visitor centres and serviced campsites.

The government agency's decision to introduce more posters comes after a woman in her 50s tested positive for the more transmissible South African variant of COVID-19, following completion of her mandatory 14-day stay at an Auckland managed isolation facility.

Director of Heritage and Visitors, Steve Taylor, said DoC made the change despite having confidence that its online hut booking process already amounts to an effective contact tracing system.

He concedes having QR codes clearly visible "encourages people to follow the right behaviours and the practice of scanning regularly", hence the change.

Rangers will begin installing QR codes at high-use huts, campsites and other facilities when they next visit the sites, DoC says.

Other sites in the backcountry will not get QR posters, however, as many are in remote locations not practical for rangers to get to. Taylor says when visiting these sites, Kiwis should keep their own record or fill in the hut book.

DoC's introduction of QR posters at high-use sites is in an effort to encourage greater uptake of the COVID Tracer app.

While use of the app has increased greatly following the announcement of the community case, history shows it tends to dip back down again when the danger of widespread transmission subsides, making it difficult for health officials to contact trace when an outbreak does occur.

"It's incredibly important we don't become complacent around the use of QR codes and COVID-19," Taylor said.

"More people than ever are enjoying the outdoors this summer, and we strongly encourage people to use QR codes at DoC facilities when they see them."

He encourages visitors of DoC facilities to play their part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 by choosing what activities they're comfortable with, keeping a record of where they've been and staying home if unwell.