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More track closures coming

DOC is planning to close or upgrade all muddy tracks through kauri forest. Photo: George Driver

More widespread track closures to prevent the spread of kauri dieback are expected, as DOC has proposed to close or partially close 45 tracks in a bid to eliminate the risk of people spreading the disease.

The news comes a month after Auckland Council closed all but a handful of tracks in the Waitakere Ranges and three weeks after DOC closed the popular Okura Bush Walkway north of Auckland.

All up, 56 track closures were being considered. A DOC spokesperson said it was consulting on closing 31 tracks, partially closing a further 14, and was still investigating closing 11 more.

DOC said no muddy tracks near kauri trees will be allowed to remain open.

“Track upgrades and closures will ensure that muddy track surfaces are eliminated and won’t be a risk to the spread of kauri dieback through soil movement,” the spokesperson said.

“It is not feasible or desirable to upgrade every track with kauri on it and so, in some cases, closure may be the safer approach to mitigate the risks of the disease.”

The department is currently consulting with iwi, community groups and other track-user groups on the proposal. A decision will be made at the end of July.

Outside of Auckland, DOC manages the vast majority of public kauri forest. Previously, it has closed 15 tracks and two reserves to prevent the spread of dieback. The department has surveyed all 735km of tracks through DOC-managed kauri forest and it is part-way through a programme to close or upgrade 186 tracks in Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Coromandel.

It is also installing 20 new high-tech cleaning stations.

People are believed to be the main vector spreading kauri dieback disease and track closures and upgrades are currently the best hope of curtailing its spread.