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Mt Albert becomes vehicle-free

The maunga Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura / Mt Albert will return to a pedestrian space from Saturday 16 March, with the tihi (summit) loop road permanently closing to private motor vehicles, including motorbikes and scooters.

The exception will be continued vehicle access for people who have limited mobility and cannot walk to the tihi; they or their drivers can phone the Auckland Council call centre to obtain an access code for a new automated gate at the start of the loop road.

Pedestrian and cycle access remain unchanged.

A new visitor car park, toilet block and a drinking fountain with a connected dog water bowl have been added inside the main entrance to the maunga.

Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura is the last of six Auckland maunga to have general private vehicle access removed from roads to the tihi. The Maungawhau tihi became vehicle-free in January 2016, followed by Takarunga / Mt Victoria, Maungarei / Mt Wellington, Pukewīwī / Puketāpapa / Mt Roskill, and Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill all in 2018.

Paul Majurey, Chair of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority says the changes recognise that the maunga are separate from many other parks and open spaces in that they are wāhi tapu – sites of immense spiritual, ancestral, cultural, customary, and historical significance to Mana Whenua.

“To Mana Whenua, the maunga are taonga tuku iho (treasures handed down the generations) and the tihi of a maunga has always been a sacred place to be treated with respect and reverence. Honouring these values alongside creating an enhanced and safer experience for pedestrians is at the heart of the vehicle access changes,” says Majurey.

The maunga of Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura was once an important pā (fortified settlement) and despite extensive damage through quarrying in more recent times, the maunga still retains remnants of early Māori life in the form of historic terraces and food pits.

The Tūpuna Maunga Authority announced in November 2016 that the tihi of these maunga would become pedestrian-only spaces. The changes were also signalled in the Tūpuna Maunga Integrated Management Plan which was publicly notified and the subject of a public submission and hearing process in 2016.

“We have had consistent feedback that the maunga are vastly more peaceful and safer places to be without cars driving up and over them. People are really connecting with the preservation of these taonga. They remain public spaces for all visitors to enjoy. These changes are about rethinking how we interact with the whenua and better protect it,” says Majurey.

More information about the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, the vehicle access changes and a copy of the Tūpuna Maunga Integrated Management Plan can be found at www.maunga.nz.

© Scoop Media

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