Message from Mace Ward, Auckland Council, General Manager; Parks, Sport and Recreation – Feb. 23, 2018
Many of you will have seen media coverage of the council’s Environment and Community Committee decision yesterday (Tuesday 20 February) to close the forested areas of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park.
This was a significant decision for the Mayor and Councillors, and one that they did not take lightly.
It follows the decision in early December 2017 to commencing a programme of medium and high risk track closures in the ranges, resulting in 44 closed tracks. Our ambassador programme kicked off in mid-December with more ambassadors than the previous year. This team spoke with 30,000 park visitors over a two month period and reported some concerning feedback. Many people including Aucklanders did not know about kauri dieback, about the track closures and hygiene measures, and (of great concern) did not care. The lack of compliance with closures and protection measures contributed to the decision to close all forested areas of the parkland.
What was decided yesterday?
- Proposal to close the forested area of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park, with some exceptions, by 1 May 2018 for example tracks/areas which would reach the requirement of a controlled area notice (expected to be introduced by the Ministry for Primary Industries).
- Provides the highest level of kauri protection for the Waitākere Ranges.
- The proposed closed area does not include beaches, pasturelands and areas outside the forest. No closure of essential service access or prevention of authorised management activity.
- Engagement with mana whenua, Te Kawerau a Maki on the proposed closure area and exceptions; consultation with the Waitākere Ranges Local Board; and work with concessionaires, businesses, recreational groups and residents is to be carried out.
- The final decision will be made at the 10 April 2018 Environment and Community Committee Meeting, with changes introduced from 1 May 2018.
- The committee also proposed closing further high risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park from 1 May 2018, subject to consultation with mana whenua and the Franklin Local Board.
What does this mean for concessionaires, businesses and users of the park?
We have 83 official concessionaires that operate on the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park. From ice creams and bee keeping to guided walks and adventure activity as well as a number of recreation and conservation groups, your needs are varied, as is your engagement with the kauri forest.
We will be in touch with all of our concessionaires to discuss how closure of the forest might impact on their business. These discussions will extend to other businesses that operate alongside the park and those that live there too. We are committed to working with Te Kawerau a Maki on confirming the proposed closure area and any exceptions; with the local board and with other user groups.
Right now, we don’t have answers to every question, however we will be progressing this swiftly.
Read more on OurAuckland, including further information about controlled area notices. Current track closures and kauri dieback management measures will remain in place until changes come into effect on 1 May 2018.
Thank you for your ongoing support of kauri protection in the Waitākere Ranges. We will be in touch again soon.
Parks, Sports & Recreation | Community Services Auckland Council | Te Kaunihera Tamaki Makaurau Level 7, Bledisloe Building, 24 Wellesley Street Auckland 1010