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Waitakere audit shows Auckland Council needs to do more



WAITĀKERE CLOSURE AUDIT


The Waitākere Rāhui team has recently conducted an in depth audit of the Council’s closure of the Waitākere Ranges in anticipation that pressure on the park will increase during the summer months.


Volunteers visited every track entrance in the Ranges and noted the status of signage, fencing, cleaning stations, use and (where open) the condition of the track surface.


The results are shocking. During the month-long audit volunteers found 14 tracks that were not clearly either open or closed, had no signage and/or fencing. In addition they found 20 of the 30 officially open tracks that did not comply with the standards of the Controlled Area Notice. The majority of open tracks had no signage, no cleaning station at all or a very old one, and in many cases the track surfaces had exposed soil and roots.


The Controlled Area Notice states that no soil must be moved along, into or out of the open tracks. Where the surface is unsatisfactory and/or there is no cleaning station then achieving this standard is impossible. This means that everyone using these tracks is breaching the Biosecurity Act and risks prosecution. These tracks must all be closed until they reach the required standard to be used without the risk of moving soil.


In addition there was evidence that fences were poorly placed so that they were easy to bypass and that informal tracks had been made to avoid them, so people are breaching the closure. Auckland Council has yet to take any enforcement action with regard to the closure.


The Waitākere Rāhui Team is extremely disappointed with the results of this audit since the closure has now been in place for 6 months and demands that Auckland Council closes the gaps and tightens enforcement urgently before the summer holiday season commences.


“The people of Auckland have committed $100m of our money towards protecting kauri and this audit shows that Auckland Council is not taking its responsibilities to deliver that protection seriously” said The Tree Council’s Secretary Dr Mels Barton.


“The majority of law abiding citizens are giving up their beloved Waitākere Ranges tramping experiences in order to protect our forest. We expect Auckland Council to do their bit to ensure that the closure is complete and effectively enforced.”
The summary report is available on the Waitākere Rāhui website at http://waitakererahui.org.nz/the-latest. A detailed spreadsheet of findings for every track visited by our volunteers in the last month is available on request.

Recommendations


1. All closed track entrances which are currently open should be closed and properly secured with permanent fencing and signage.
2. All out of date signage should be removed and replaced with current signage.
3. All open tracks that do not meet required standard for track surface condition should be closed until they have been upgraded.
4. All open tracks that do not have new unavoidable cleaning stations on both ends should be closed until they have been upgraded.
5. All open tracks that do not have appropriate signage relating to compliance with the Controlled Area Notice should be closed until they have been upgraded.
6. Kakamatua Beach Walk track should be upgraded past the kauri trees with fenced boardwalk to prevent off track use.
7. Signage should clearly state that dogs must be on leads on open tracks.
8. All closure fences should be checked for ability to be bypassed and gaps secured.
9. All informal tracks should be closed and secured.
10. Covert security cameras should be installed where there is evidence of bypass and/or informal tracks are present.
11. Ambassadors should be permanently located on all open track entrances.
12. Carparks should be closed where tracks are closed.
13. Large signs should be placed on roads clearly stating that forest tracks are closed.
14. The Controlled Area Notice should be amended to cover the entire Waitakere Ranges Regional Park so that risk goods (soil) being moved on closed tracks or informal tracks can be enforced.
15. A monthly audit of all tracks (security of closure of closed tracks plus condition of open tracks) should be completed and reported publicly along with a monthly report on enforcement.


** Ref: Auckland Council Waitakere Ranges Track List (attached) https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/environment/plants-animals/pests-weeds/Documents/waitakere-ranges-track-list.pdf


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