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Waitākere tracks reopen after four-year closure

Whatipu Beach, near where the Gibbons Track begins. Photo: Russell Street, Creative Commons

A wrap of the biggest stories and best writing about the outdoors from New Zealand and around the world.

Great news for those desperate to explore more of Auckland’s Waitākere Ranges. Three tracks – the Gibbons, Muir and Pararaha Valley tracks – are open once again, having been closed in 2018 due to kauri dieback.

The tracks opened in time for ANZAC weekend after a $2.34 million upgrade that ensures they’re now kauri safe.

A storm last August washed out a section of the Muir Track, meaning additional repair work also needed to be done.

“The tracks offer stunning views over the Tasman Sea and the Whatipu Scientific and Conservation Reserve,” said Auckland mayor Phil Goff. “It’s great Aucklanders can enjoy this wilderness experience so close to our city.

“The upgrading of the tracks means we can again enjoy the walks without putting the trees at risk by human activity spreading the disease.”

It’s hoped the entire Hillary Trail will be reopened in around May next year. Read more at Our Auckland

Spike in Hump Ridge

The number of people walking the Hump Ridge Track has jumped since it was announced that it would become a Great Walk.

As recently as 10 years ago the 61-km trail on Southland’s south coast was drawing fewer than 1000 people each year.

By 2018 this had risen to 2400, but since the Great Walk announcement in 2019 more than 3000 people have walked it each year, despite lockdowns and closed borders brought about by the pandemic.

The track is currently being upgraded to Great Walk standard, and should be ready in time for the 2023-24 season. Read more at Stuff. 

Double amputee crawls up UK’s highest

A double amputee called Paul Ellis has done something quite extraordinary. He’s climbed Scotland’s Ben Nevis (1345m) – the highest summit in the UK – and in doing so has raised £19,000 ($37,000) for child amputees.

Ellis spent 12 hours crawling up rock and the track’s notorious zigzags before heading through snow to reach the top.

The money raised will go to Kids Amp Camp, which has a retreat in Tenerife. “Amp Camp just puts these children around other children who look and feel the same and their families can relax too,” said Ben Lovell, who set up the retreat. Read on.

Kōkako numbers soar after 1080 drop

The number of North Island kōkako in a reserve that’s received extensive predator control has nearly doubled over the past few years.

In 2018 there were 44 pairs in the Mokaihaha Ecological Area of the Mamaku Plateau, west of Rotorua. That number’s risen to 71 pairs after the most recent 1080 drop in September last year.

Monitoring has also shown a 73 percent decline in possum numbers since the drop, while rat levels dropped from 42 percent to zero. Both species are a huge threat to kōkako, and the 1080 operation was planned specifically to hit predator numbers in time for the breeding season. Read more here

The solar system in 10km

Here’s a great idea for anyone who’s heading to the UK in the near future. Artist and writer Oliver Jeffers is creating a 10km walking trail to illustrate the scale of the solar system.

The colourful 3D sculpture trail will be situated in three of Northern Ireland’s most scenic spots and will allow walkers to pass each planet and to see its relative size.

Jeffers believes it’ll help us see our planet from afar and remove us from the ‘us and them’ mentality that divides us. Read more about this here