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Council closer to closing tracks for kauri protection

After months of calling for full closure of the Waitakere Ranges to stop the spread of kauri dieback disease, conservation groups are optimistic that the regional park will finally be closed in May.

Auckland councillors voted unanimously today to consult on the closure of all forested areas within the park.

The Tree Council, Forest & Bird, Friends of Regional Parks and Waitakere Ranges Protection Society have been lobbying Auckland Council and working around the clock to encourage the public to respect a rāhui (or temporary closure) placed over the entire Waitakere Ranges by local iwi Te Kawerau a Maki in November.

Today’s council meeting voted to engage with those directly affected by the proposed closure, and continue discussions with Te Kawerau a Maki on specific areas to be closed, with a final vote on closure to take place on 10 April
, and rollout of full closure in May. They also voted to consult on closure of high risk areas in the Hunuas and put enforcement measures in place for non-compliance.

“We're asking concessionaires, local businesses, recreational groups and local landowners to support the closure of the ranges to save our precious kauri forests for future generations,” says Dr Mels Barton, Secretary of the Tree Council.

Today’s council meeting acknowledged the current approach of closing only a few tracks was not working.

“The mixed messaging over the summer months, where only some tracks were closed, led to total confusion from the public and tens of thousands of people continued to pour into the Ranges and spread kauri dieback disease,” says John Edgar, Chair of The Waitakere Ranges Protection Society.

The conservation groups have been working closely with Te Kawerau a Maki after alarming reports showed the spread of kauri dieback had more than doubled in the Waitakeres over five years from 8% to 19%, and humans are the main cause of thespread of this deadly pathogen.

"Total closure of the Waitakere Ranges is the only way we will be able to stop the spread of kauri dieback in the Waitakere Ranges and the support of the public is imperative for the closure to work,” says Nick Beveridge, Forest & Bird Auckland Regional Manager.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to work with Auckland Council to ensure the public respect this closure, and Council speeds up essential upgrades to tracks and cleaning stations,” says Bronwen Turner, Chair of Friends of Regional Park.

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