Kauri dieback: Tracks that should be closed still open

3:00 pm on 5 November 2018

An audit has found serious shortcomings in Auckland Council's attempts to fight kauri dieback threatening the Waitakere Ranges.

A large Kauri tree on the side of the road on the way to one of the many track entrances to the Waitakere Forest.

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

In May, the council threw its support behind a rāhui, or closure, of the ranges, first put in place by iwi Te Kawerau ā Maki, and dedicated $100 million to fight the disease over 10 years.

But the conservation group Waitakere Rahui Team said it found examples of tracks that should be closed but were still open and tracks that were allowed to be open but had no biosecurity measures.

And its spokeswoman Mels Barton said it found plenty of evidence of people simply ignoring the closure, skirting around obvious barriers or creating new, makeshift tracks.

As summer approached she had a lot of worries, she said.

"That people may have forgotten, they don't remember that the forest is closed, that they don't know how they are supposed to behave," she said.

Mels Barton from Protect Our Kauri

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

"The council needs to be out there in people faces, we need to have signs on the road and a full-on marketing campaign."

Under the rāhui, some tracks were allowed to be open because they were either seen as low risk or because they had been upgraded with biosecurity measures like walkthrough shoe cleaning stations or boardwalks.

But Waitakere Rahui Team said its volunteers checked every track and found that the reality did not match the plan.

Fourteen tracks that should be closed were open, about ten open tracks with no warning signs about kauri dieback and many more open tracks with no shoe cleaning stations or with risky, churned up tracks that makes them vulnerable to spread, Dr Barton said.

Protect our Kauri says this is an example of poor barrier to a closed track.

Protect our Kauri says this is an example of poor barrier to a closed track. Photo: Supplied

"I feel frustrated and angry that [the council] is making only a token effort when we're all giving up so much and putting in so much effort to educate people ourselves and yet the council isn't holding their end of the bargain up," she said.

But Auckland Council said it did take the issue seriously and was ramping up its efforts as summer approached.

Its regional parks manager Rachel Kelleher said there were a few video cameras in place at busy tracks, but it was not practical to put them everywhere around the park's 90 entrances.

Some penalties, like trespass prosecutions could be given by the council but the heavy breach of the Controlled Area notice fines could only be issued by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

It said some of the tracks in the Waitakere Rahui Team audit were not covered by the closure.

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