The forested areas of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park will be closed from 1 May to prevent the spread of, and protect against, kauri dieback disease.
The decision was made on 10 April by Auckland Council’s Environment and Community Committee.
“The management of kauri dieback disease has been one of the most complex and challenging issues that Auckland Council has been faced with,” says Councillor Penny Hulse, who chairs the committee.
“Today, we have taken bold action. The closure of the Waitākere Ranges forest will provide the highest level of protection to kauri, to ensure that future generations can experience and enjoy this precious taonga.”
Some exceptions to Waitākere closures
Exceptions to the closure will include beaches, pasturelands and a limited number of tracks with track surface conditions to a standard that will support the requirements of the proposed Controlled Area Notice.
Some of the tracks identified to remain open are subject to the completion of additional maintenance work prior to 1 May and Auckland Council will be working with Te Kawerau ā Maki to jointly assess that the maintenance work has sufficiently brought these tracks to a standard where they can remain open. Once confirmed, a final list and map of open tracks will be published on the council’s website.
“We thank Te Kawerau ā Maki for the collaborative work they have undertaken with the council on this exceedingly complex issue, and the community for their feedback and engagement that has contributed to the final decision being made today,” says Cr Hulse.
High-risk tracks in Hunua Ranges to close
The council also agreed to close further higher-risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park. These measures aim to prevent the introduction of the disease into the park, where it has not yet been detected.
Controlled Area Notices under development
Auckland Council has been working with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on Controlled Area Notices (CANs) for the Waitākere and Hunua ranges.
Under the arrangements being developed, open areas in the Waitākere and Hunua forests will become Controlled Areas under the Biosecurity Act, and anyone using them will need to comply with the instructions at cleaning stations and park entrances. A CAN comes with enforcement tools, including prosecution, if people fail to comply.
Compliance with these CANs will be enforced by Auckland Council, while MPI will monitor the CANs’ implementation, including people’s use of hygiene stations.
Work on track closure to begin soon
Auckland Council staff will now begin to decommission tracks, remove signage and begin the process of restricting access to the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park.
Staff will work to prioritise initial track upgrades and improvements in the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park to re-establish coastal connectivity and multi-day walking opportunities, as suggested during the public engagement process, to mitigate the impact on park users and operators.