Auckland Council will this week make its final decision on vital measures to protect kauri in the Auckland region.
Its proposal to close forested areas of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park (with exceptions) and further higher-risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park will go before the Environment and Community Committee on Tuesday 10 April.
"This is it," says committee chair and Waitākere Ward Councillor Penny Hulse.
"We are about to make the most important decision about the future of the Waitākere Ranges since the introduction of the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area Act."
"In the last two months, we have talked to as many people that use the Waitākere Ranges as possible.
"They have filled out our surveys, written to us, attended drop-in sessions and meetings and told us of their concerns for kauri and how closure might affect them.
"Our decision tomorrow will include points of view from more than 800 pieces of feedback, alongside the work we have done with Te Kawerau ā Maki and taking into account the council’s responsibility as caretaker of the Waitākere Ranges," she says.
'Radical action' needed to stop kauri dieback
Since the disease was discovered about 10 years ago, Auckland Council has invested in various management measures including track improvements, hygiene stations, targeted closures, surveillance and research across the Auckland region.
"Unfortunately, this hasn’t prevented the spread and incidence of the disease, particularly within the Waitākere Ranges, and it was clear that more radical action needed to be taken," says Cr Hulse.
In February, the committee voted unanimously in favour of the closure proposal, subject to an engagement process with mana whenua and impacted stakeholders.
Waitākere Ranges proposal
Staff confirmed a proposed closure area and identified the exceptions to remain open with Te Kawerau ā Maki. A targeted public engagement process was then carried out with those who use and benefit from the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park.
Feedback from the engagement process will influence the programme to improve track surfaces, and safely reopen tracks over time.
Three options for closure
The report outlines three potential options for the approach to closures in the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park. These are:
- Option one: implement the proposal to close the forested areas, including prioritised rolling openings as tracks are upgraded.
- Option two: keep tracks within the coastal strip open – with rolling openings.
- Option three: close all forested areas of the regional park.
Officers recommend the committee adopt option one – this is the approach that was publicly consulted on. It will provide the greatest level of protection to non-diseased areas within the Waitākere Ranges and other sites, while allowing for some recreational, conservation and commercial opportunity.
If this option is adopted further track openings are planned to enable coastal connection and multi-day walk options as an initial priority.
Hunua Ranges Proposal
To date, the disease has not been detected in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park; therefore, the focus is on preventing the disease from entering the park. It is proposed that several higher-risk tracks are closed temporarily, and one permanently.
These tracks have been identified as higher risk due to their proximity to kauri and the need for hygiene station upgrades, and in some instances the need for additional track work.
Controlled Area Notice
Auckland Council staff have been working closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries on the development of Controlled Area Notices (CANs) for both parks.
A CAN is a mechanism under the Biosecurity Act to put controls on the movement of risk materials, in this instance, requiring any person that enters and exits the open tracks within the forested area to ensure their footwear and other gear is free from visible soil, and to use any hygiene stations encountered.
A CAN would be implemented and monitored by MPI but enforced by Auckland Council.
The closure options that are decided upon on Tuesday will come into effect from 1 May.
For further information and detail on the proposal read the report here.
You can livestream the meeting from 9.30am on 10 April by following this link.
Timeline of Waitākere Ranges kauri dieback response
December 2017: Auckland Council closes 44 high-risk tracks within the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park for kauri protection.
February 2018: The Environment and Community committee votes unanimously in favour of a proposal to close the forested areas of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park (with exceptions), and close high-risk tracks within the Hunua Ranges, which then underwent a consultation and engagement process.
10 April 2018: The committee will make a final decision whether to adopt the closure proposal.