While chocoholics and Easter egg enthusiasts are getting excited about Easter, Aucklanders with a fondness for the great outdoors are getting equally excited about brushing off their shoes and heading into the open air.
But be warned – if you’re thinking of heading to the Hunua or Waitākere Ranges over the Easter break, play by the rules.
Councillor Penny Hulse, Chair of the council's Environment and Community Committee, says compliance officers will be hitting the ranges to snap those ignoring the rules and remind people why track closures are so important.
“We’re in the midst of a long stretch of school and public holidays, where the weather is looking pretty good, so we expect Aucklanders to venture out of town and hit our parks before the winter season really sets in.
“The controlled area notice that applies to both regional parks is a serious regulatory tool for mitigating the spread of this invasive disease however we know some of our visitors still don’t understand its purpose or choose to ignore closures.
“The bottom line is, parts of our forests are closed to prevent the movement of infected soil to other areas. There is no kauri dieback in the Hunua Ranges – let’s keep it that way,” she says.
Auckland Council’s Regulatory Compliance will be leading the kauri dieback compliance efforts, planning a targeted operation focusing on users of closed tracks. A team of 30 compliance officers will be on the ground to enforce the operation over the long weekend.
“It’s been almost a year since we implemented track closures; the first phase was focused on education and generally, visitors to the park have played the game and shown a genuine desire to do the right thing,” says Councillor Hulse.
“But as always, there are those who ignore the rules. We’re now changing tack; we’re taking a firmer approach towards compliance and enforcement.”
The message is simple, those who choose not to comply with the closures and controlled area notice may be issued with trespass notices or risk prosecution under the Local Government Act and Biosecurity Act and fines of up to $100,000.
Auckland Council would like to see people enjoying themselves this Easter and encourage visitors to aid in the protection of kauri by keeping their footwear and equipment clean, staying on track and respecting closed areas.
More tracks open in the Waitākere Ranges
Alongside the crackdown, more tracks will soon reopen in the Waitākere Ranges following the completion of kauri protection upgrade work.
The finishing touches are being made to the Comans Track at Piha and the Lower Nature Trail Track at Arataki within the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park and we expect these to be opened in coming days.
“Our teams continue to work tirelessly across the Waitākere Ranges upgrading tracks to help protect kauri and provide Aucklanders and visitors with the opportunity to enjoy this unique regional park.
“Following recent public engagement on the track re-opening plan, we are working on a detailed work programme for the next five years and look forward to sharing that with the public,” says Rachel Kelleher, Auckland Council Regional Parks Manager.
“Thank you to our staff, contractors, volunteers and Te Kawerau ā Maki for their ongoing work and support,” says Rachel.
Comans Track provides a key coastal connection between Piha and Karekare and will form part of a multi-day coastal walk the council is working on over the next couple of years. Track upgrade work has included surface improvements to create a dry foot standard, enabling year-round walking, and the construction of box steps in steep sections of the track.
The Lower Nature Trail has been prioritised as it provides further education opportunities for school groups and visitors to the Arataki Visitor Centre. Upgrade work has included the construction of boardwalks, steps and improved track surfaces.
Easter compliance update
Auckland Council’s Manager Regulatory Compliance Steve Pearce says the compliance operation over Easter has been a success.
“It’s really pleasing to see the majority of people have followed the rules over the weekend. Our officers saw about 3,700 people and only caught seven people in closed areas, who were issued with trespass notices, so that’s a positive result.”