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Locals disagree with kauri dieback track closures in Waitākere Ranges

The majority of tracks in the Waitakere Ranges were closed in May 2018. Photo: Michael Andrew

Local residents disagree with the Auckland Council’s plan to close or open tracks in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, a report has found.

The Council report, released in mid-May, analysed submissions from public consultation conducted in January to March this year.

The public was invited to have their say on the Council’s draft plan, which identified the tracks that would be reopened or remain closed to stop the spread of kauri dieback.

Two-thirds of the 700 submissions expressed disapproval of the plan, saying that it did not adequately balance recreation opportunities and forest health.

The report found most of these respondents were Waitākere residents who felt the track closures deprived them of their connection with the forest and significantly affected their well-being.

Many expressed a desire for other tracks, including the Hillary Trail and longer loop walks, to be given priority and reopened faster.

Piha resident James Dickinson disagreed with the Council’s plan in his submission, saying that much of the methodology on which the closures are based is conjecture.

“I don’t believe the science is robust enough to justify the extent of closure that we’re seeing.”

He said the Council have closed tracks that don’t have kauri on them.

“Whites Track in Piha is a classic example. There are no kauri on Whites Track and it’s closed.”

Around 10 per cent of respondents disagreed with the plans as they felt the closures did not go far enough to protect kauri.

The remanding 35 per cent agreed with the plans, with a small portion submitting some minor amendments.

The majority of tracks in the park were closed in May 2018, after an Auckland Council report found that up to 20 per cent of kauri in the park could be infected with kauri dieback.

A controlled area notice (CAN) legally restricted anyone entering closed tracks under the biosecurity act.

Since then, the Auckland Council along with the Department of Conservation has been upgrading low-risk tracks to prevent kauri dieback spreading through soil movement.

Six tracks have been reopened in the year since the park closed.

Auckland Council Regional Parks Manager Rachel Kelleher said the Council is taking the feedback into consideration.

“Kauri dieback protection is a serious and complex biosecurity issue and one that we must do our best to manage,” she said in a press release.

“While we will never be able to make everyone happy, we are committed to providing a realistic balance between recreation and conservation outcomes.”

However, James Dickinson said he doesn’t believe public opinion will change the Council’s plan.

“They’re still sticking to their prior agenda and don’t appear to have any intention of changing their approach,” he said