Fire risk delays Muriwai vehicle access reopening

Publish Date : 14 Jan 2022
Fire risk delays Muriwai vehicle access reopening
FILE: Four-wheel drive at Muriwai Beach. CREDIT: Auckland Council

Vehicle access to Muriwai Beach will remain closed after Auckland Council was asked by Fire and Emergency New Zealand to not reopen this coming Monday as planned due to the dry conditions the region has experienced this summer.

Councillor Alf Filipaina, Chair of Auckland Council’s Parks, Arts, Community and Events Committee says that while people may be disappointed, the decision to keep the access closed was based on safety.

“The last thing we want to see is a fire breaking out in the regional park or the Woodhill Forest. Unfortunately, the temptation to enter the forest, light illegal campfires or carry out other activity that might spark a fire is too great for some. Keeping vehicles out of the area is one way to limit the risk of devastating forest and vegetation fires.”

Scott De Silva, Manager of Auckland Council’s Regional Parks says that recent fires at Woodhill and on regional parkland are a reminder of how devastating a fire can be.

“Fire and Emergency advised us that the fire risk in and around Woodhill Forest is very high and asked us to consider keeping the vehicle access closed.

“We agree that the safety of people, the environment and livelihoods is paramount and that re-opening vehicle access to the beach at this time is not worth the risk.”

Hot and dry summer conditions always bring increased fire risk in our region’s parks.

“Remote locations, rough terrain, and access to water supplies make it tough for firefighters to access parkland, even with the support of our own rangers.

“This summer we’ve already responded to fires at Long Bay and Waitawa regional parks that could have been avoided,” says Scott.

Local board chair Phelan Pirrie is all too familiar with the devastating impact of forest fires and echoes the need for ongoing safety measures.“It takes one spark; one illegal campfire; or one cigarette butt to do significant damage to an area that will take years to regenerate. Not to mention the difficulty getting firefighting resources into an area that is hampered by remote access and challenges with water supply.

“We urge people to be sensible and patient as we wait out this very dry season,” he says.

Open fires are prohibited in all public areas in the Auckland region, including on beaches and foreshores, in parks, conservation areas and forests. It is also prohibited to light fireworks in any public places. Only dedicated barbeques that are provided can be used.

The Auckland mainland is currently in a restricted fire season – check Fire and Emergency’s website prior to lighting a fire.

Muriwai Beach vehicle access

Auckland Council will be in regular contact with Fire and Emergency over the summer to ensure that vehicle access to Muriwai Beach will reopen when the fire risk is reduced.

Auckland Council has been working with the local community and four-wheel-drive clubs since public consultation on beach vehicle access in May 2021 and the results have been pleasing so far.

“We have listened to the community’s concerns and ideas, and we have been working together to manage vehicle access. Rangers were out before Christmas checking people’s driving permits and there has often been someone from the four-wheel-drive community out there helping to remind people of their responsibilities when driving along the beach.

“It has been a great collaboration that we are keen to continue when we can re-open access.”

In the meantime, Councillor Filipaina asks that people be patient and respect the closure.

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