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Te Urewera Board Confirms Temporary Te Urewera Closures For Level Three

Te Urewera Board has carefully reviewed its own statutory responsibilities as the voice of Te Urewera, to the land, to manuhiri and tanata whenua and with Tūhoe have confirmed that the protections currently in place for everyone within Te Urewera at level four will remain in place should the country transition to level three, Te Urewera Board chair Tāmati Kruger announced today.

“The Prime Minister announced the restrictions that would apply at level three last week,” Mr Kruger said. “People are still required to stay at home, except for essential activity, such as work or school if necessary and recreation in local areas.”

To protect the health and safety of potential manuhiri (visitors) and local communities, Te Urewera huts, campgrounds, boat ramps, walks (including the Waikaremoana Great Walk) and freedom camping areas will remain closed at levels three and four. Hunting and fishing will not be permitted to resume in Te Urewera while the country is in level three or four.

“We know that many keen hunters want to head in to Te Urewera, but we are asking them for patience,” says Tāmati Kruger, Te Urewera Board chair. “Tūhoe communities are trying to safeguard everyone from the risk of transmission of the virus. We feel as if transmission in our isolated bush communities would leave us defenceless. We want to do all that we can to reduce risks for everyone in Te Urewera. And if waiting a few more weeks is it – then that is the course of action we want to take.”

Tūhoe and Te Urewera Board met remotely this week to consider the risks to local communities, the practical issues of staff remaining grounded, the long distances to reach Te Urewera for day activities and the health and safety needs of manuhiri. It just didn’t add up.

“Te Urewera is perhaps the only significant wilderness or bush area in New Zealand with living communities within it. Based on historical hunting numbers in Te Urewera during the roar season, which would happen in a compressed timeframe thanks to the lockdown, an influx of hunters could pose a significant risk in terms of transmission of the virus between communities, the safety of local people and the safety of hunters themselves.”

“The health and safety of manuhiri and tanata whenua in Te Urewera is of the utmost importance to Te Urewera Board and Tūhoe. We have to play our part, just as all New Zealanders must, to eliminate COVID-19, and to minimise the risk and demand on emergency services in what is after all a 2,127km2 mountain range that is remote from most parts of the country and emergency services.”

Te Urewera Visitor Centre also remains closed to the public.

“Tūhoe kaimahi will be checking tracks, huts and campsites to ensure these measures for public safety are observed,” Mr Kruger said.

“As kaitiaki of Te Urewera we are responsible for keeping people safe and ensuring this closure is respected,” Mr Kruger said. “We look forward to welcoming back manuhiri, trampers, boaties and hunters when this crisis has passed, so Te Urewera can be enjoyed by all.”

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