Scoop Review of Books

A walk in the park

Great Walks of New Zealand Maps (Craig Potton Publishing, $24.99)
Review by Nikki Slade Robinson

I have a confession: I really like maps. I like how you can pore over one and build up a 3D mental image of an area by interpreting contour lines and other geographical information. I particularly like the ‘Topo’ (Topographical) maps that have been around for years; the maps that have been carted around by keen outdoors-people for so long. The maps printed on paper. So when I heard about this new series of maps of NZ’s nine Great Walks printed on ‘waterproof durable paper’, I was keen to see what they were like.

The map for the Tongariro National Park is printed portrait (vertical) on both sides and measures approximately 59.5 cm by 84cm. At a scale of 1:40,000, the front map covers the area from the southern end of Lake Rotoaira down to the bush line above Ohakune. It’s good to have the whole National Park on one sheet. Contours are at 20m vertical intervals. The key is not quite as technical as a Topo map: it shows an historic-site icon rather than vegetation-type icons, for example. Roads are shown in solid pale yellow lines, tracks in dotted and solid slightly darker yellow lines. Also on this side is a small panel of track notes: a descriptive paragraph plus a note of distance in kilomatres and estimated walking time – but only for the sections of the Round the Mountain track. It would be good to have times and distances for the other tracks shown. There’s also a panel with average monthly climatic conditions for Taupo, and finally a cross-section, elevation-distance chart of the main track. The elevation is a nice touch that the old Topo maps didn’t have; however, those original maps weren’t designed to focus on just one track.

The reverse side of the map shows the same area at a slightly different scale of 10km to 13.9cm – it covers from the southern corner of Lake Taupo to just south of Ohakune. It shows a slightly more 3D view. There are no contour lines on this side. In practical terms having the two versions perhaps isn’t of huge benefit, given there isn’t more of a difference in scale between the two sides. Neither side has an index. Perhaps a panel with some flora/fauna information or a little history, and maybe track information for other walks, would make this side more versatile – for example the distance and walking time for the Rotoaira Loop Track. Without this, the reverse side is more of a road map/general pictorial overview.

One big difference between this map and the Topo maps is the colour. Topo maps are quite light, even when showing bush-covered areas, and contour lines were easy to pick out on the lighter-coloured background. These new maps almost look more reminiscent of an aerial photo. The colours read a bit like DoC: olive greens, khakis, and mid browns. The contour lines, a very fine white, are quite hard to pick out, as are the grid lines. I would imagine using this map in overcast conditions, or especially in the dappled, dim light of the bush, would be rather tricky.

The actual material of the map is interesting. While it’s called ‘paper’ it actually feels like a combination of plastic and paper. The material is ‘Rockstock… made from ground down waste stone and offcuts from the building industry…’. Rather than ripping like paper, it will stretch the way plastic does when pulled hard. It feels quite robust. That’s a plus! It isn’t as stiff as a Topo map so may be harder to hold open in the wind.

The information is sourced from Land Information New Zealand, Landcare Research, Geographx, NIWA, DoC and GNS Science. So, if you’re planning to do a Great Walk and want a map you can hang on your wall afterwards, this could well be what you’re looking for.