Tourism operators who use the Waitākere Ranges have welcomed the closure of some walking tracks in the park to help stop the spread of kauri dieback disease but are wary of further access restrictions.
Auckland Council has closed tracks deemed to be high- and medium-risk of spreading the disease following a vote yesterday of its environment and community committee approving the restrictions.
Twenty-four tracks are now closed in the park but that still left plenty of options for operators, said Ben Thornton from Bush and Beach, which operates tours through the ranges.
“If they had gone with a complete closure of the park then we would have been struggling. But by virtue of the fact that there are still a lot of tracks which will be accessible we can make it work and if it means that the kauri are going to be protected then hallelujah.”
Thornton, who presented at the council meeting yesterday, said it was acknowledged that guided tours were not the problem.
“As part of having our concession, we have to be responsible, we have to educate our guests and we have to scrub and spray footwear going in and out of the forest,” he said.
“We’re very conscious and mindful of that. In fact, we spend half the day educating other people who don’t do it, whether it be locals or other tourists who are not on guided tours.”
The council stepped back from closing the park completely stating such a restriction would be unenforceable.
“There would be, in my opinion, a lot of livelihoods at stake if they closed the ranges,” said TIME Unlimited’s Neill Sperath.
“We have always taken a very careful approach and cleaned our shoes and our clients’ shoes on the way in and out on every track. The park is one of our national treasures and so important we help protect it.”
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff acknowledged the immediate impact that these targeted closures would have.
“The option that we have chosen today closes high-risk areas within the park, puts our current resources into the maintenance of tracks and is a practical approach that will really make a difference on the ground,” he said.
“Together with the consultation options and associated budgets for the long-term plan that we will vote on next week, this strategy allows us to have an increased impact on saving our kauri.”
Aucklanders would have an opportunity next year to consider what funding from the 10-year Budget they wanted to allocate to environmental protection, including the management of kauri dieback.
Track closures approved yesterday
|New temporary closures||Change from temporarily closed to permanently closed||Already closed (continued temporary closure)|
East Tunnel Mouth
Hillary Trail Swanson link
Upper Huia Dam
Summit (lower section)
Manchester Unity Block (note – no formal tracks but known usage)