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Tongariro conservationists hugging apps as well as trees

The Tongariro Crossing has become the first national park to get its own interactive smartphone app, just in time for the summer swell of keen hikers and walkers.

Pocket Ranger was designed to convey information without cluttering up the landscape with signage, offering maps, photographs and information about the crossing.

“People can download as much information as they want, right there on the track,” said Karen Williams, president of Project Tongariro.

“It also allows visitors to research the area before they arrive and make sure they’re prepared for the changeable weather conditions the region is known for."

She said other parks and organisations had already expressed interest in following the project's lead to develop their own apps.

“We’ve been involved with producing books and brochures about the park for years, but the Pocket Ranger is a real breakthrough.

“With ever increasing smart phone ownership, it made sense to move with the times."

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is rated as the best one-day trek in NewZealand and listed by many in the top 10 day treks in the world. More than 80,000 tourists walk the crossing each year.

Established in 1984, Project Tongariro is a nonprofit community group that works with the Department of Conservation to promote a wider  knowledge and appreciation of Tongariro National Park.

Visitors can download the free Android app from www.tongariro.org.nz/pocketranger (an iPhone version is in the works).