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Dirty boots in Waitakeres could mean a prison sentence

Expect to see closed signs, compliance officers and barriers at trail heads in the Waitakere Ranges. Photo: George Driver

All of the major tracks in the Waitakere Ranges are now closed and trampers who break the rules face hefty fines and a prison sentence.

Just 23 tracks remain open in the ranges and all forested areas are closed, while 10 tracks have closed in the dieback-free Hunua Ranges.

A Controlled Area Notice has been put in place on the opened tracks, meaning it is a legal requirement for trampers to clean their boots at every hygiene station they pass in the park. All visible soil must also be removed from footwear, equipment, even pets, when entering and exiting the park.

Those who don’t follow the rules face up to three months in prison, or a fine of $50,000 under the Biosecurity Act and people who are found walking on closed tracks could be trespassed.

Compliance officers will be stationed at trail heads to check people are cleaning their boots but will be taking an educational approach at first.

Closed tracks will have signage and barriers ‘where necessary’.

The tracks which remain open are either coastal walks without forest, including the Te Henga Walkway and Lake Wainamu Track near Bethells Beach, or roads to reservoir dams such as the Waitakere Dam and Huia Dam walks. No major bush walks are open.

Initially, Auckland Council said up to 44 tracks could remain open in the Waitakeres. However, council said the tracks were not able to be brought up to standard before May 1, when the closures took effect. A number of tracks were also damaged in recent storms.

Popular bush walks which were unable to be upgraded in time include the Omanawanui and Puriri Ridge tracks from Whatipu and the Kitekite Track in Piha.

Further tracks would be reopened as they were upgraded and council said reopening the Hillary Trail and tracks that link to the coast were the top priority.

Odlins 2 Campground near Karekare beach is also closed. All other campgrounds in the Waitakere Ranges remain open but council said further closures were likely.

In the Hunua Ranges, four campsites are also closed: the Mangatangi Trig, Workman, Thousand Acres and Adam’s Lookout campgrounds.

The communication on the closures has been contradictory. A number of the tracks which have remained open are listed as closed on the council’s website. The website also said over half of the tracks in the forested areas of the ranges remain open, however the overwhelming majority were closed.

Walkers and trampers are thought to be the main vector spreading kauri dieback disease and the closures were to prevent the further spread of dieback in Waitakere and keep it out of Hunua.

Councillor and Environment and Community Committee chair Penny Hulse said the support of Aucklanders would be crucial.

“Each one of us must do our bit by staying away from all closed areas,” Hulse said. “We know these places are special to many people; this is why we are taking this action now, so that future generations can continue to enjoy kauri.”

View a map of the open tracks in the Waitakere Ranges and Hunua Ranges.

Open Waitakere tracks
Huia Dam Road (to dam only)
Pipeline Road and part of Pipeline Track
Upper Nihotupu Dam Road and Upper Nihotupu Walk
Waitakere Dam Walk
Exhibition Drive Walk
Anawhata Beach Track
Cave Rock Track
Laird Thompson Track
Lion Rock Track
Long Road Track (partial – from road end to where paddock meets forest)
McLachlan Monument Track
Rose Track
Signal House Track
Spraggs Monument Track
Tasman Lookout Track
Te Henga Walkway
Kakamatua Beach Walk
Lake Wainamu Track
Mercer Bay Loop Track
Lookout Track (Arataki Visitor Centre)
Marawhara Track
Ian Wells Track
Large Kauri Walk
Closed Hunua tracks
Cossey Wairoa Track
Whakatiwai Ridge Track
Whakatiwai Road Track
Lower Workman Track
Mangatangi Trig Track
Waharau Ridge Track
Mangatangi Ridge Track
Lower Link Track
Upper Link Track
Lower Mangatawhiri Track