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Local environmentalists applaud Okura rāhui

Local environmentalists applaud Okura rāhui to protect kauri and old-growth forest.

Auckland environmentalists are strongly supporting a rāhui being placed on Okura Bush by local iwi Te Kawerau a Maki, Ngati Manuhiri and Ngati Rehua to stop the spread of kauri dieback disease and protect the rare, old-growth coastal forest.

“We are very sad that it has come to this, but we fully support Mana Whenua leadership towards protecting kauri forests and their decision to temporarily close the tracks.” says Friends of Okura Bush spokesperson Geoff Reid.

Okura Bush is a rare coastal forest ecosystem that supports regenerating kauri, large kōwhai trees, stands of kāhikatea, as well as old growth taraire and puriri trees that are hundreds of years old.

“We are pleased that DOC is supporting the rahui with an official closure, but we remain very concerned about the lack of progress with the full scale protection that the Okura Bush and kauri need and deserve” Reid said. Friends of Okura Bush have been advocating for many years for the Department of Conservation to properly upgrade the tracks in Okura Bush , and to engage better with the local community.

Friends of Okura Bush look forward to working together with local Iwi, Auckland Council, the Department of Conservation and the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board in setting up a trust for the funding and management of this precious taonga.

“Much of this bush is ancient and serves as an example of what Aotearoa’s forests once looked like. It has survived for thousands of years and to see it under threat because of insufficient management of human impact is soul-destroying” says Reid.

“We have seen a huge increase in the number of people visiting Okura Bush. In the past six years, visitor numbers have increased by over 300 percent from 9,000 in 2011 to around 40,000 in 2017.” says Reid.

“With so many people coming through, it’s crucial that we have the proper infrastructure to protect the forest.”

“In winter of 2016, the Department of Conservation installed 300 metres of boardwalk. It’s a great start, but doesn’t go far enough. We have asked for a track management plan, which is yet to be developed, and we are now at the point where iwi have had to place a rāhui on the forest in order to protect it.” says Reid.

Upgrading the track to a boardwalk is the best known way to provide infrastructure that protects kauri as well as other trees with sensitive root systems.

“The track that currently runs through most of Okura Bush is made of compacted, muddy, gravel, which puts sensitive tree roots under huge amounts of stress from foot traffic. The mud is also one of the main ways that kauri dieback disease is spread. Already, we are seeing the forest canopy thin out as old trees die off.”

Te Kawerau ā Maki, Ngati Manuhiri, and Ngari Rehua will officially close the track during a ceremony on Saturday 12 May at 7am.

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