Franz Josef Glacier guided hikes set to return

Jun 19, 2020

Guided adventures on the Franz Josef Glacier will resume in time for the school holidays, thanks to a collaboration between Ngāi Tahu Tourism, the Department of Conservation and The Helicopter Line and the support from Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio.

The companies have partnered to deliver the ultimate glacier heli hike experience using the highly qualified senior guides at Ngāi Tahu Tourism’s Franz Josef Glacier Guides and the experienced team and quality fleet at The Helicopter Line.

Heli hikes on Kā Roimata-a-Hinehukatere will resume from 4 July with special prices and a lighter schedule.

This is the third Ngāi Tahu Tourism business that has been realigned to the smaller domestic market after 10 of the company’s 11 businesses were temporarily paused due to the significant impacts of COVID-19.

Hukafalls Jet in Taupō reopened in late May and will soon be joined by Queenstown’s Shotover Jet, which reopens on 3 July. Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters in Queenstown has remained open.

Ngāi Tahu Holdings Chief Executive Mike Pohio says the teams at Ngāi Tahu Tourism, Franz Josef Glacier Guides, The Helicopter Line and Makaawhio have been working exceptionally hard to enable glacier heli hikes to resume sooner than expected.

“We are delighted it allows us to reemploy some former kaimahi and do our part to boost the regeneration of tourism in the town and the wider West Coast.”
Four senior glacier guides have been re-employed.

“We are thankful to the Department of Conservation and Makaawhio for their very valued support, and to the local community for their patience while we have been working to get up and running again,” says Mr Pohio.

“We made the difficult decision to temporarily pause 10 of our tourism businesses and reduce our workforce during a rapidly changing period and since then we have been assessing conditions for reopening our businesses and working to adapt our tourism portfolio to ensure they can operate in this changed environment and industry.”

The guides also have the opportunity to work for the Department of Conservation to maintain local tracks on no-fly or quiet days.

The Helicopter Line Chief Executive Mark Quickfall says: “We are thrilled to return to offering this outstanding experience to visitors to Franz Josef. The heli hike product has been a key activity for some 40 years and its continuation is an important outcome for West Coast tourism.”

Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio Chairman Paul Madgwick says Ngāti Māhaki are delighted to help the Franz Josef community, the loyal kaimahi at Ngāi Tahu Tourism and partners kickstart the glacier guiding in this new environment.

“As both mana whenua of South Westland and the glacier country, and a minority shareholder in Franz Josef Glacier Guides, we recognise the pivotal role this business plays in the glacier economy and the viability of the community,” Mr Madgwick says.

“A viable glacier guiding business keeps families in the village and in turn helps the viability of Franz Josef as it recovers its place as one of New Zealand’s most iconic tourism destinations.”

Franz Josef Glacier Guides has provided guiding services to The Helicopter Line for several years. The arrangement will see manuhiri check in at The Helicopter Line’s base, where they will be provided with Franz Josef Glacier Guides equipment and clothing before being guided by the company’s kaimahi.

The Franz Josef Glacier Guides base in Cron Street will remain closed for the time being, as will the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools.

Heli hikes will run seven days a week at 11.00am and 1.30pm. Bookings can be made online at or