The forested areas of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park and 10 higher-risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park are closed, effective Tuesday 1 May.
Auckland Council has implemented the closures after deciding last month to close these areas by 1 May 2018 to prevent the spread of, and protect against, kauri dieback disease.
Controlled Area Notices were also introduced on 1 May by the Ministry for Primary Industries across currently open tracks within the forested area of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park and all of the native forest area of the Hunua Ranges regional parkland.
Aucklanders will begin to see new signs and barriers on tracks and compliance officers monitoring the closures and controlled areas in both parks. This will increase over coming weeks.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says, "Together with mana whenua and central government we have taken strong and decisive action to tackle one of Auckland’s most urgent and challenging environmental issues.
"The closures reflect the serious response needed to give kauri the best shot at survival and send a strong message about our desire to protect this unique native species from extinction."
Aucklanders must support kauri protection efforts
Councillor Penny Hulse, Environment and Community Committee Chair, says, "The closures will slow the spread of kauri dieback, benefiting our kauri forests – but the support of Aucklanders will be crucial.
"Each one of us must do our bit by staying away from all closed areas. We know these places are special to many people; this is why we are taking this action now, so that future generations can continue to enjoy kauri,” she says.
"This is one of the largest conservation efforts ever undertaken in New Zealand. It’s a complex long-term task to put in place and work is on-going but it’s a significant achievement to reach this point in such a short timeframe."
Closures included in Waitākere rāhui
The closure of the forested area of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park is included within the rāhui placed by Te Kawerau a Maki over the wider Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area. The rāhui remains in place.
Auckland Council has worked closely with Te Kawerau a Maki on the closed area and the exceptions for tracks to be kept open, under a Controlled Area Notice.
Upon review in late April, some tracks were not up to the required standard and the opening of some tracks is subject to improved hygiene stations being installed.
Further tracks to be opened once maintenance carried out
The condition of a number of tracks has also been impacted by recent storm events, including treefalls and surfaces being damaged in some places. Some additional work is now required to ensure these tracks can open as soon as possible and that people using them will be able to meet the Controlled Area Notice standards.
Further track openings will be confirmed once tracks are upgraded to agreed standards.
Closures in Hunua Ranges for protection
Ten higher-risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park are now closed. Auckland Council has worked with mana whenua Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Pāoa and Ngāti Tamaoho, who are supportive of these closures to protect the health of the forest.
These measures are to prevent the introduction of the disease into the park, where kauri dieback remains undetected. A Controlled Area Notice is also in place across the native forest area of the park and adjoining Department of Conservation-administered lands.
Controlled Area Notices in force
Controlled Area Notices (CANs) apply across currently open areas in both regional parks. CANs are a mechanism under the Biosecurity Act, in this case requiring any person entering the Controlled Areas to have no visible soil on their footwear or equipment. The CANs also make the use of all hygiene stations encountered mandatory. All visible soil should be removed upon exiting tracks.
Roger Smith, National Kauri Dieback Programme Chair says, "Soil on footwear and equipment is largely to blame for the spread of the disease. There have been cleaning stations in kauri forests for many years, but it’s disappointing how few people are using them.
"We are bringing in a stronger legislative approach to managing kauri dieback, and Controlled Area Notices are our first step in this," he says.
From Tuesday 1 May, compliance officers will begin to monitor use of hygiene stations at entrances and exits. While officers do have enforcement powers, the initial focus will be on educating visitors on the requirements of the CAN.
DOC supports action on kauri dieback
The Department of Conservation (DOC) also supports the strong action being taken to protect Auckland’s kauri forests from the spread of kauri dieback.
"All DOC tracks through kauri forest we manage in the Waitākere and Hunua Ranges are currently closed as part of our programme to protect kauri in our reserves from kauri dieback," says DOC Auckland Mainland Operations Manager Kirsty Prior.
Auckland Council will assess the effectiveness of the closure programme after one year.