Last year Auckland Council asked Aucklanders to provide thoughts and ideas to contribute to the 10-year review of the Regional Parks Management Plan. Comments and suggestions were received from 758 people and organisations along with a petition of 3681 signatures.
Councillor Alf Filipaina, chair of the council’s Parks, Arts, Community and Events (PACE) Committee, says that while a full analysis of feedback is still being undertaken, he can already see that the comments will be extremely useful for the preparation of the new draft plan.
“The feedback was very broad and ranged from comments about what people love and value about our regional parks, to thoughts about the role of regional parks, and suggestions related to specific regional parks,” explains Councillor Filipaina.
“We received comments from people who enjoy using regional parks every now and again, multiple-page submissions quoting clauses of the current plan and in-depth suggestions from those who have had years of close association with the regional parks. Organisations representing specific recreation, community or conservation interests also took the time to put forward their members’ views.”
Councillor Filipaina acknowledges the huge wealth of insightful input provided by people who know their regional parks really well. This feedback included important details about specific problems and opportunities at a variety of different park locations.
- Almost universally, people told us they love the natural, undeveloped character of regional parks, and value the ability to freely access natural and open spaces as Tāmaki Makaurau continues to grow.
- Many value native biodiversity for its own sake and want to protect and restore the natural environment.
Issues that the largest numbers of submitters felt strongly about were:
- the impact of kauri dieback related track closures on wellbeing, with requests to improve access while protecting kauri.
- Vehicles on beaches, particularly at Muriwai, drew comment about conflicts with other users and concerns about safety and environmental damage.
- responding to climate change; people saw regional parks fulfilling the role of a carbon sink: by far the most common suggestion was ‘plant more trees.’ Other common suggestions were for farming to be more sustainable, regenerative and diverse, and to build cycle trails and bus links between parks and communities so people don’t have to drive.
- Some requested more spaces to take dogs, while others wanted to keep areas dog-free with a greater focus on enforcing dog bylaws.
- Many raised concerns about plant and animal pest infestations and suggested priority go to conservation and pest control, suggesting actions to reduce visitor impacts on wildlife.
Other key themes raised by the community and organisations included:
- Requests from many outdoor recreation groups and users (trampers, horse riders, mountain bikers, vehicle-based campers, four-wheel drive recreation, dog walkers and others) for more opportunities to enjoy their activities in more parts of regional parks.
- Regional parks were viewed as the natural place to educate and build connections to nature including through volunteering, and to learn about farming and provide experiences with animals. Suggestions to provide visitor information, nature education, support volunteers and provide a more visible ranger presence were received.
- A petition from 3681 people sought an end to the killing of farmed animals for food production at Ambury and other regional parks, on the grounds that animals deserve to live out their full lives.
- People said they want to understand and connect with the heritage and history of the whenua, particularly its Māori history.
- Commercial use was both opposed and given conditional support, providing it fits into the natural character of the regional parks. Some suggested donations could help fund projects and volunteering could be increased.
- The Waitākere Ranges drew the most comment by far of all the regional parks, including comments on kauri dieback and tracks, and the impact of visitor pressures in many areas.
- The Hūnua Ranges were seen to have considerable untapped potential for active recreation, with many suggestions for horse riding, mountain biking, tramping, day walks and cycle links.
A full summary of community responses is available on the council's website.
Along with community suggestions and feedback, preparation of the draft plan will also include:
- continuing engagement with mana whenua
- workshops with local boards
- input from specialist staff
- engagement with Auckland Unlimited, Auckland Transport, and Watercare
- workshops with the PACE Committee
- checking all land parcels within regional parks to ensure park classifications and land requirements are accurate and current.
The process for the review is illustrated in the following table:
The review of the plan encompasses 28 regional parks of around 41,000 hectares. The current plan was prepared in 2010 and is available on the council’s website.