Walking access to Cape Kidnappers will reopen later this year, despite an ongoing risk of landslides.
The 19km Te Kauwae-a-Māui Walking Track via Clifton Beach has been closed since January 2019, when a large slip injured two tourists. The track provides access to a gannet colony and was a popular walk.
A risk assessment report commissioned after the slip found landslide hazards remain potentially fatal. Walking Clifton Beach was determined to be as risky as mountain climbing.
DOC lower North Island operations director Hayden Barrett said public expectations of the walk’s safety must be changed before the track is reopened.
“While we can never eliminate all risk in a natural environment, we can set expectations and provide people with better information to help them understand these risks,” he said.
University of Canterbury professor Tim Davies said the report shows the upper limit of fatality risk is greater than one death every decade.
“Given public aversion to recreational death risk, and the consequences of multiple deaths as exemplified by the White Island tragedy, the upper limit risk-to-life figures must be taken seriously,” he said.
University of Auckland associate professor Martin Brook said the spectacular landscape could be a ‘fatal magnet’, and signs may not be enough to mitigate risk.
“Irrespective of any signage or path that DOC implements, some tourists do ignore DOC signage,” he said.
“Perhaps it’s best DOC closes its track and removes all reference to the walk, save for a large warning sign about the landslide hazards.”
The track is expected to open in time for summer and Barrett said signage at the Clifton Beach entrance will note the risk to walkers.