In May, significant closures were put in place in the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park to increase protection of the forest against kauri dieback disease.
Since then, Auckland Council has been working with local iwi Te Kawerau ā Maki on a track plan for the park.
Regional Parks Manager Rachel Kelleher says the plan sets out what needs to be considered prior to reopening tracks, including track improvement methodology.
“We’ve taken into account the current best practice for managing kauri areas and applied it to the unique situation we have in the Waitākere Ranges. Through the development of the plan we also identified tracks for reopening over the next two to five years.”
This plan is currently being finalised with Te Kawerau ā Maki and will be shared with the public when that process is complete.
“In January we will be starting public engagement to seek community feedback on the order that the identified tracks should reopen, and this feedback will then be used to develop our forward work programme.
“If you are a regular park user, or local resident it would be great if you could have a think about this over the Christmas break," says Ms Kelleher.
In making decisions to reopen tracks the following will be considered:
- priority will given to recreating coastal connectivity, providing for multi-day walking opportunities and kauri-safe access to identified iconic destinations
- tracks will be opened once they are of a standard where they protect and support forest health
- tracks that provide access to identified iconic destinations will be recognised
- high-value non-symptomatic kauri ecosystems will be avoided
- a range of recreational opportunities that where possible are concentrated to the forest edge will be provided.
Current work programme
While public engagement next year will focus on the work programme from 2020 onwards, there is already work underway or being scoped and designed for several other tracks in the interim.
“Our teams are currently working tirelessly to upgrade Kitekite Track, so that it can be reopened. We are nearly there but want to ensure that everything is completed to the required standard before it opens, including the installation of additional hygiene stations, so the public can enjoy it and keep our kauri protected.”
Some enquiries have been received about the removal of a small bridge at the start of Kitekite Track. Prior to the upgrade work, Kitekite Track had three entry points; by reducing the number of entry points managing visitor access through the hygiene stations will be more effective. The removal of this bridge does not prevent access to the existing tracks or diminish recreational opportunities.
“We will commence upgrade work on Slip Track, Lower Arataki Nature Trail and Comans Track in early 2019, along with project planning for other tracks including the Zig Zag Track, says Ms Kelleher.
“We would like to thank the many volunteers, staff and contractors who have been working extremely hard both behind the scenes and out in the park on the track upgrades. Thank you also to all our visitors for their patience, understanding and cooperation while we work through this complex process.”