A new boardwalk planned for the crater rim at the tihi (summit) of Maungawhau / Mt Eden in Auckland will support the iconic Tūpuna Maunga (ancestral mountain) as a major New Zealand tourist destination and deliver much-needed protection of important heritage features.
The boardwalk will include a viewing platform on the northern knoll at the summit, positioned for panoramic views over the Waitematā Harbour and Auckland city centre.
Construction begins mid-November 2019 and is scheduled for completion in early May 2020. Visitors can still access the summit road and the southern part of the summit. The crater loop track will be closed for the duration of works.
Preserving natural and cultural heritage
Paul Majurey, Chair of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, says the boardwalk solution answers an urgent need to save the tihi from erosion and preserve the natural and cultural features that are of international significance.
“Maungawhau was one of the largest and most important pā in Tāmaki Makaurau and is of immense cultural, spiritual and historic significance to thirteen iwi and hapū of Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau.
“Today Maungawhau is recognised as one of the most well-preserved prehistoric fortifications of its type in the world. Features of the original pā survive, including historic pā tūāpapa (terraces) and rua (pits) around the crater area, but the inadequate track is damaging them,” says Majurey.
“The Auckland maunga, including Maungawhau / Mt Eden, are already on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Status. There is much to be done before a formal bid to UNESCO is submitted, and a key part is demonstrating that the internationally significant natural and cultural heritage values are being properly protected. This boardwalk is another step in that direction.”
Tracks in poor condition
The crater track was last upgraded over ten years ago with aggregate paths which are now significantly degraded. Aggregate has washed into the pā features and the track has uneven surfaces and deep ruts which are getting gradually worse through constant foot traffic and the channelling of rainwater.
The poor condition of the paths has caused people to make alternate tracks which are scarring the mountain. In places, this has created a path over six meters wide.
“With more than one million people visiting Maungawhau every year and with that number expected to rise, the time is right to build a ‘best of class’ track solution that can support the numbers and offer an enhanced and safer walking experience, while also preserving historic features,” says Majurey.
The planning and design of the Maungawhau boardwalk over the last twelve months has included consultation with industry experts in New Zealand and abroad, and a review of boardwalk design at historic locations and World Heritage sites around the world.
Nick Turoa, Tūpuna Maunga Authority Operations Manager, explains.
“It was important for us from the outset to deliver a world-class boardwalk that incorporates the latest techniques being used worldwide today. We’ve reviewed boardwalks protecting ancient sequoia forests at Yosemite National Park in the United States, boardwalks at the Ġgantija temples in Malta and track and trail innovations at Stonehenge in England, to name a few.
“The Maungawhau design includes techniques perfectly suited to our unique heritage values. Foundation footings will be screwed into the ground using a hand tool, eliminating digging or excavation. It’s a reversible technique, meaning the foundations can be removed in the future, leaving no trace that the structure was there. A steel frame will support a platform of hardwood timber and steel mesh, allowing grass to grow naturally beneath,” says Turoa.
“To minimise the visual impact of the boardwalk, it will follow the contours of the terraces and use materials that will weather and age naturally.”
Turoa appreciates that the long construction period may be frustrating for visitors.
“People may wonder why we are doing this work over summer when visitor numbers are highest. The heritage protections require that ground disturbance is minimised, so work must be undertaken in months of dry weather. Working in wetter conditions over winter months would cause too much damage.”
“There will also be a period where visitors see no work occurring. This is because the steel frame of the boardwalk can only be designed and fabricated after the foundations are positioned precisely amongst the volcanic rock. As the boardwalk foundations will be in the centre of the old walking track, it is not safe to walk around them. It is important for safety reasons that visitors do not attempt to walk the closed crater loop track during the upgrade.”
Signage around the tracks will explain the project and where people can walk.