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Track work making strides in regional parks

Published: 14 September 2020

With summer nearing, avid trampers get more of an itch to head out on an adventure.

The efforts of Auckland Council rangers, staff, and contractors mean more options will soon be available for those looking to get into nature, taking the annual total of opened tracks to 49km across regional parks.

It will be a welcome relief for trampers and day walkers keen to explore more of the Waitākere Ranges.

Auckland Council’s biosecurity manager kauri dieback Lisa Tolich says things may look slow but plenty has happened since the decision to officially close the tracks was made in May 2018.

“We know more about the pathogen that causes kauri dieback now than we did two years ago.”

Studies and research into the disease, from a range of organisations and institutions across the country, have been key during the last two years and the natural environment targeted rate has helped contribute to that.

Lisa admits that science research can take a long time but the government’s approach to COVID-19 provides a helpful analogy for how the council is dealing with kauri dieback.

“We are taking a precautionary approach. We don’t know everything about the disease and we still have lots to learn, but we know that closing the tracks is something that we can do to help prevent the disease from spreading throughout the ngahere (forest). Think of it as isolating the kauri to stop transmission.”

While the drought and lockdown have made life difficult, one positive has been the opportunity for track work continuing further into the year than normal.

“The dry winter has enabled us to catch up on some of the time for track work that we lost due to lockdown,” Lisa observes.

“We are almost back to where we wanted to be.”

The track upgrade process is highly detailed and takes time to plan things right.

“A lot of people think we just chuck gravel on but a lot of thought goes into it, where it comes from, even the size given different gradients in a track,” says Stu Leighton, Auckland Council’s Kauri Dieback Senior Ranger.

One of the tracks nearing completion is the Karamatura Loop Track and is a prime example of the complexity of the upgrade project and the challenges rangers and contractors face.

“The track passed beside a beautiful kauri so a boardwalk was needed to protect the root system. But the terrain around that particular tree is very steep, meaning we had to drill three metres down for the foundation piles of the boardwalk.”

Stu says the drilling had to be done by hand on what is almost a cliff-face.

“It’s a real feat of engineering and the contractors did an incredible job. The boardwalk will allow people to get up close and personal to a kauri without damaging the root system.”

Waitākere Ranges Councillor Shane Henderson, who accompanied Stu on a tour of the loop track, says Aucklanders should get excited about the work that is occurring around protecting the kauri.

“Kauri are such an integral part of the ngahere (forest) across the region and a real national taonga (treasure). What we as council are doing on behalf of Aucklanders is protecting kauri and the forests they are in, allowing our children, grandchildren and a multitude of generations of Aucklanders to enjoy these giants.”

“The work to date has been the result of incredible efforts from everyone involved. Getting back up close and personal with a kauri was so amazing and knowing that we can still do that while the root systems remain protected is great. I know many Aucklanders for years to come will enjoy this track and appreciate the mahi (work) done when this track reopens.”

In addition to the track work, planned replacement of the toilets at Karamatura and improvements to the carpark have also been able to be carried out at the same time. The Karamatura Loop Track, as well as the neighbouring Karamatura Track and Donald Mclean Track along with the new toilets will be opened later this month, after the completion of a final few jobs.

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