A small selection of tracks in the Waitakere Ranges may be spared from closure, as Auckland Council calls for feedback on its plan to close all forested areas of the regional park.
The council has released a list of 85 tracks it plans to close and seven to be permanently closed. However it has listed 34 tracks which could remain open, including the Huia and Waitakere dam walks and Pararaha Valley Track from Karekare Beach. A further 10 tracks could remain open if they can be upgraded before May. This includes popular walks such as the Kitekite Track to Kitekite Falls near Piha and the Omanawanui Track from Whatipu. The full list of track closures can be found here: Waitakere Ranges Tracks. A map of the tracks which are proposed to remain open is here: Waitakere Ranges Map
The criteria for a track to stay open is if it is outside the closed forested area and away from kauri, and if the track can be walked in any weather without the risk of transporting soil.
The council has launched an online survey, which is open until March 19, asking regular users of the park for feedback on the proposal.
It will make a decision on April 10. The closures would take effect from May 1.
The consultation comes after a council decision on February 20 to close all forested areas of the ranges and also close all high risk tracks in the dieback-free Hunua Ranges.
Meanwhile, recreation groups are concerned it may be the beginning of the end for tramping in kauri forests and are calling on a plan to protect kauri while retaining access.
The New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) CEO Andrew Leslie said the closure of the Waitakere Ranges was the biggest public access issue New Zealand had ever faced.
“It represents a huge loss of recreational opportunities for our largest city,” he said.
While he believed closing the ranges was the right decision, Leslie said it would have a huge impact and there needed to be funding to develop alternative recreational opportunities.
“For the sake of their health and wellbeing, Aucklanders must have adequate access to outdoor spaces.”
Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) president Peter Wilson called for a strategic access plan for all kauri forests in the country, which would review which tracks could be closed and which could remain open.
FMC and the NZRA held a briefing on kauri dieback disease last month, where officials from DOC, Auckland Council and MPI shared the latest information.
North Shore Tramping Club acting president John Lamb said the the closure of the Waitakere Ranges and Hunua tracks would have a big impact on the club.
The club was already staying out of the Waitakere Ranges and the Hunua Ranges had become an important alternative for the club. Lamb said the council’s plans to close high-risk tracks there would remove most of the club’s favourite walks.
“There’d only be one day trip left in there, so it’s pretty serious.”
Lamb said he was concerned the move would set a precedent and lead to the closure of other kauri forests.
“We are starting to run out of places to go.”