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Waitākere forest closure proposed

Published: 20 February 2018

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Waitākere forest closure proposed.

Auckland Council has decided to close the forested area of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park.

At the 20 February meeting of the Environment and Community Committee, the council proposed to close the forested areas of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park, with some exceptions, by 1 May 2018.

Mayor Phil Goff spoke of the impact this decision will have on future generations.

“I regard this as one of the most important issues that we will be confronting as a council – the potential extinction of an iconic species.

“The current approach that council is taking is not working, for a variety of reasons, chief of which is the acceptance of Aucklanders. This decision sends a much stronger message that leaves no room for confusion,” he says.

Committee chair and Waitākere ward councillor Penny Hulse says this is an important step towards greater protection of kauri across the region and provides the highest level of kauri protection for the Waitākere Ranges.

“We have worked tirelessly since our decision last December to close more tracks and investigate greater protection measures. Today’s decision to close the Waitākere Ranges forest is the result.

“We applaud the passion of those out there campaigning for kauri protection and commend those visitors that have chosen to observe closures or stay away from the ranges – but we’ve decided it just isn’t enough.

“We believe this decision will benefit kauri across the Auckland region and we’re committed to working with all those impacted to make closure work.

“It is also vitally important that visitors to kaurilands also do their bit – don’t duck behind a barrier or walk around a footwear cleaning station – the future of kauri in New Zealand sits with all of us,” she says.

Waitākere Ranges Local Board Chair Greg Presland presented the board’s views at the meeting and welcomed the committee’s decision.

“We’re pleased that the council has unanimously decided to support strong action to protect kauri but this is not the end of the issue – we’re going to have to keep working on it together,” he says.

The exceptions would be beaches, pasturelands and areas which would reach the requirement of a controlled area notice (expected to be introduced by the Ministry for Primary Industries).

“We will engage with mana whenua Te Kawerau a Maki on the proposed closure area and exceptions; consult with the Waitākere Ranges Local Board; and work with concessionaires, businesses, recreational groups and residents to limit the impact closure might have on them,” says Cr Penny Hulse.

The 20 February decision to close the entire forested area also includes:

  • the potential for some tracks to remain open where visitors could meet the standards required by a controlled area notice
  • an exception for beaches and pasturelands
  • no closure of essential service access or prevention of authorised management activity
  • the final decision will be made at the April 2018 Environment and Community Committee Meeting.

The committee also proposed closing further high-risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park by 1 May 2018, subject to consultation with mana whenua and the Franklin Local Board.

What is a controlled area notice?

  • Implemented by the Ministry for Primary Industries under the Biosecurity Act
  • Cannot be used to close the park or specific tracks – it can only be used to control the movement of at-risk material into and out of a designated area (in this case soil)
  • Would give more enforcement options for closed tracks
  • Would still apply on open tracks
  • Would require people to enter and exit the park with no visible soil on their footwear or equipment
  • Would make using hygiene stations where present mandatory.

Since December 2017 the council has:

  • Closed 44 tracks
  • Upgraded six tracks (15km; 200 tonnes gravel)
  • Improved hygiene stations
  • Increased its ambassador programme, speaking to 30,000 visitors over two months
  • Monitoring use of both open and closed tracks.