Auckland's popular hidden gem Lake Wainamu closed to public

From Morning Report, 7:51 am on 29 January 2024
A lake, with dunes visible in the foreground and green farmland in the backgound.

Lake Wainamu in 2024 during the closure in early 2024. Accessed with a guide via private land.  Photo: RNZ

Hikers and thrill-seekers are becoming frustrated that one of Auckland's hidden gems has now been closed for a year, after being damaged during the Anniversary Day floods.

The council is warning that there's no quick fix for the damaged track and car park in the Waitakere Ranges.

Lake Wainamu is about an hour's drive from the central city and adventurous Aucklanders have been going there for years, to hurtle down the dunes on large pieces of cardboard, swim in the lake, or walk the loop track.

A travel website once described it as an exhilarating walk through an otherworldly landscape, but this summer, there is large sign warning the public to keep out after floods washed away parts of the track and damaged the car park.

Commentators on social media shared their frustrations in recent posts.

"I am going to ignore this, it's not very helpful and doesn't encourage me to respect these rules."

"The carpark is packed on the weekends even though the closed signs are all clearly visible."

Finding parking in the area has been an issue for a long time, but it became worse after Cyclone Gabrielle damaged the main car park.

There's still a small parking area available, and people turn up on weekends despite the lake being closed.

Local Mark Allen said the road becomes crowded with parked cars, which is a problem for emergency services trying to get Bethells Beach.

"When the parking was lost during the storms, we could see that it was there was going to be an issue. There had been an issue in the past and the community had taken a real role in trying to put out parking bollards so that we could keep the roads open as much as we could."

Allen said for many years the community has also had to deal with people who go to visit the lake woefully underprepared, thinking there will be toilets or a boardwalk.

He used to be the fire chief for Bethells Valley and said because the dunes have shifted, more people are being injured when they slide down and plunge over steep drops.

On top of this, there was a leptospirosis outbreak in the lake in 2023, and while it's resolved now Allen wants to see regular testing.

Waitākere Ranges Local board chair Greg Presland said he's aware the closure of the park will be frustrating, and people may not heed the warnings.

"I’m pretty sure people are still trying to visit, Westies are very resourceful and we're not the best at following rules sometimes."

He said it will take time to fix the car park.

"We're dealing with damage caused by Mother Nature and Council's repairing it as quickly as we can, but it's not a simple job, so it's all going to take a bit of time."

In a statement, an Auckland Council Western Principal Ranger Dave Markham said once the damaged car park is repaired, some areas can reopen.

However, the loop track has been severely damaged any will take longer to fix. 

He said it could take several years to complete all the work once funding is secured.