15 Nov 2017

Iwi moves to put rāhui on Waitakere Ranges

From Nine To Noon, 9:09 am on 15 November 2017

An iwi wants the government to help stop people entering the Waitakere Ranges this summer as the disease threatening to wipe out kauri intensifies.

Dead and dying kauri trees

Kauri trees with dieback disease. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Tangata whenua Te Kawerau-a-Maki said it would put a rāhui in place by Christmas to keep people out of the park but it would need Auckland Council or government help to enforce it.

A council report into kauri dieback in August recommended the council consider closing the ranges but so far it hasn't acted.

Te Kawerau-a-Maki executive manager Edward Ashby said the Ministry for Primary industries should invoke the Biosecurity Act.

The iwi did not have the power to enforce the rāhui, nor could it station people at every walking track to talk to them about it, Mr Ashby said.

"What we can do is stick to our tikanga, stick to what we know is right for our people and really try to get that buy in from the community and hope people understand and respect that," he said

The 16,000ha Waitakere Ranges Regional Park runs alongside popular West Auckland beaches.

The council report shows the rate of the disease has doubled in five years and is concentrated in areas where people travel.

"When you look at the [disease] maps it lights up like a Christmas tree all around the Hillary Trail and all around Piha. 

"Where these denser populations are, we're essentially looking at localised extinctions."

Auckland Council director of community services Ian Maxwell said closing the "large and sprawling" Waitakere Ranges, and monitoring that, would be very complex.

But the council's political representatives would consider some options by December, he said.

It was already taking prevention measures such as upgrading shoe-cleaning stations and stepping up an information campaign.

Mr Ashby said the iwi's rāhui would not cover West Coast beaches or public roads - just the forest itself.