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Auckland Council Consultation on Waitākere Ranges Closure

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Auckland Council Consultation on Waitākere Ranges Closure

Auckland Council are currently seeking community feedback on their proposal to close the forested area of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park, with some exceptions, by 1 May 2018. The criteria for exceptions (tracks that can be opened) include whether they are outside the forested area; the track surface is to a standard where a person can arrive with clean footwear and gear, walk that track in any weather conditions and not have soil on their shoes as they leave the track and after using a hygiene station; or they are in an area away from kauri.

Te Kawerau ā Maki are currently working constructively with Council officers on the proposal, both to confirm the [Council] proposed closure area, and any exceptions. However, we feel the need to clarify Te Kawerau ā Maki’s position as it stands today and in relation to the Council proposal:

1. Firstly, the entire forested area of the Waitākere Ranges is closed by rāhui. The forest is tapu and people have been asked to stay out to allow the forest to heal and to buy time for solutions to be developed and track upgrades to be carried out to make it safe for us to enter. The rāhui applies where the forest covers the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park, Local Parks, Goldies Bush (DOC), and other lands covered by the Waitākere forest. This is roughly (but not exclusively) within the approximate boundary of the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area.

2. Te Kawerau ā Maki are working with Council to assist them with their version of closure from a Local Government planning perspective, and how this can map onto the rāhui closure.

3. The rāhui applies to all non-authorised human activity within the Waitākere forest – it is not limited to track infrastructure.

4. As has always been the case, the rāhui does not apply to beaches, open public spaces adjacent to beaches, open areas such as golf courses or farmland, coastal walks outside of the forest, public roads, or bodies of water. It does apply to private land with forest cover, but access is not restricted to landowners for obvious reasons. We have asked private landowners to be empowered to act as guardians to the forest, to ensure that the threat of kauri dieback is contained and managed within their individual properties to help safeguard the whole.

5. As has always been the case, part of the strategy for the rāhui is to have ‘rolling openings’ whereby certain areas or tracks can be opened once the public infrastructure is upgraded and the risks and impacts are managed to a satisfactory degree.

6. Council’s ‘exceptions’ is analogous to Te Kawerau ā Maki’s ‘rolling openings’. Many of the tracks on the Council’s ‘proposed open’ list are already outside the area of the rāhui – i.e. beach tracks, coastal tracks outside the forest, or public dam roads. There are however a number of Council’s ‘proposed open’ tracks that are within the forest, and thus within the rāhui currently. Council officers are confident that these tracks can be upgraded by 1 May to the degree that the risk of spreading kauri dieback can be effectively negated. Te Kawerau ā Maki will be working with Council on assessing these tracks to ascertain whether they meet the criteria of a ‘rolling opening’ and/or ‘exception’ by 1 May.

7. Te Kawerau ā Maki will ultimately not support public access to any tracks or areas of the forest that are not considered safe for kauri by 1 May. A number of Council’s ‘proposed open’ tracks have asterisks, and these are tracks that Te Kawerau ā Maki are particularly concerned and cautious about.

8. Finally, while some tracks here and there may eventually be opened, ultimately the message remains that the forest as a whole is sick, has been underinvested in, and people need to stay out and give it a rest by changing their recreation behaviours to areas that are safe for kauri and outside of our native kauri forests.

ENDS

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