A rāhui has been placed over the Waitakere Ranges by the mana whenua in a bid to stop the spread of kauri dieback disease.
In August an Auckland Council report said the rate of kauri dieback in the ranges had more than doubled from 8 percent five years ago to 19 percent. Prominent scientist Peter de Lange warned the kauri are headed for extinction and the biggest problem was the spread of the dieback disease by people.
Despite calls to close the 16,000ha regional park, Auckland Council officials have recommended it open to the public, ahead of a vote by the environment committee.
Te Kawerau ā Maki announced the rāhui in the forest today in order to discourage people from visiting.
Iwi spokesman Edward Ashby said it was about protecting the forests and ancient trees for future generations.
"It's a cultural matter and a prohibition on human access into the forest purely to protect the kauri.
"The point of today is to acknowledge the trees which are the oldest residents of Auckland.
"Te Kawerau ā Maki are the guardians of the forest and so they have an obligation to preserve the environment for all Aucklanders," Mr Ashby said.
He hoped the rāhui would send a strong signal to the community that the forest is dying and people need to work together to try and save it.
"It's disappointing it has come to this stage and the council has not taken action sooner.
"There are good people in the council - I have worked with them, they care about the forest and respect the mana whenua - but overall it's disappointing that we've had to take this step ourselves.
"We would have loved to have done this with the council and with the government."
On Tuesday the council's environment committee will vote on whether to close the park to visitors.
In the meeting's agenda council officials have laid out five options the committee could consider - from doing nothing to total closure. The option they recommended councillors vote for was one of targeted closures of a few high-risk areas, rather than closing the whole park.
Head of the environment committee Penny Hulse attended the rāhui this morning.
"I've lived in the Waitakeres for the last 35 years and they are the place of my heart. so I'm here to support the rāhui.
But I also came as the local councillor and head of the environment committee.
"Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could simply say to everyone 'just stay out of the forest'.
It's so complex; people will still come into the ranges despite the rāhui and kauri dieback."
Ms Hulse said the rāhui was an emotional experience.
"For most people kauri are a sacred representation of all that is good in our natural environment and who we are as New Zealanders. The idea that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will not see standing kauri is heartbreaking."