Te Urewera may reopen in late January after the former-national park was closed by Ngāi Tūhoe iwi in August when the country entered level 4 Covid-19 restrictions.
Te Urewera Board chair Tāmati Kruger said the board was “working towards reopening Te Urewera…. at the end of January to allow vulnerable local communities the opportunity to prepare for a post-elimination world”. It said the park is home to remote communities with populations vulnerable to the pandemic.
Te Urewera was a national park until 2014, when it was granted personhood and it is managed by a board that includes three representatives from the Crown and six from Tūhoe.
In a media release DOC and Tūhoe said they would be working on maintenance and repairs to infrastructure in the interim.
While Covid-19 has been a factor in Te Urewera’s closure there has also been a long-running disagreement about funding for facilities in the park. An earlier Tūhoe media statement suggested a lack of DOC funding was the reason for the closure. It said Tūhoe was “not currently resourced to deliver our Te Urewera manuhiri [guest] service… This is an issue that our Te Urewera Board, Tūhoe and DOC have been attempting to resolve prior to lockdown”.
Concerns have been raised that tracks and huts have been falling into disrepair.
In November, Kruger was quoted as saying opening Te Urewera to the public was “way down the list of priorities” as it brought no benefit to the iwi. He said DOC had underinvested in the park prior to 2014 and facilities had become liabilities.