The following information was released by Councillors Penny Hulse and Alf Filipaina on 22 November 2018:
Summer is almost here, and we know that you will be looking forward to getting outside and enjoying all that our beautiful region has to offer.
We’re lucky to have more than 4000 parks to explore, 400 of which contain kauri trees.
Kauri is a precious native taonga. It is not only a king amongst trees but is the backbone of our forest ecosystem, with 17 other species needing the towering strength of kauri to survive.
Right now, our kauri is currently under threat from kauri dieback disease, a soil- and water-borne pathogen, Phytophthora agathidicida, that destroys kauri feeding roots.
We are doing everything in our power to make sure future generations can experience kauri in its natural environment.
Kauri dieback is one of the most complex biosecurity threats that we have been faced with, and unfortunately we don’t have all the answers.
We have already closed significant areas in two regional parks and backed the Ministry for Primary Industries to put Controlled Area Notices (CAN) in place. The sheer scale of these closures, particularly in the Waitākere Ranges, is unprecedented in this country and reflects how seriously Auckland Council is taking kauri protection.
We understand how confusing this can be for our visitors, with forested areas closed yet some tracks remaining open under the CAN.
In simple terms: your footwear and equipment must not have any soil on it when you go into or out of open tracks in the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park, and you must not enter any closed tracks.
In the Hunua Ranges you cannot carry soil into any of the forested areas. In both parks, you must use any hygiene stations encountered.
The highest risk for spreading kauri dieback to new locations is soil disturbance associated with human activity. The simple act of travelling by car means that people can move soil vast distance in a short space of time.
Our teams have been working incredibly hard to progress kauri protection measures. Thanks to you, we have now allocated $100 million towards kauri dieback, resulting from a new natural environment targeted rate.
While we are at the beginning of a 10-year journey for this investment, in the last four months we have planned and undertaken track improvement work, organised and installed new hygiene stations, and installed signage and physical barriers. We are carrying out monitoring of closed areas and have a team of compliance officers focused on supporting park users to do the right thing.
We’ve been working closely with the Department of Conservation and Te Kawerau a Maki to confirm the approach needed to bring tracks in the Waitākere Ranges to a standard where they meet national best practice for kauri and support broader forest health.
Last week, following a blessing from Te Kawerau a Maki, work began on the popular Kitekite tracks to bring them to the agreed standard, and, provided we aren’t held up by weather delays, this work should be completed and the tracks re-opened before Christmas.
We expect to be able to open other tracks this summer, once upgrade work is completed. We are looking forward to sharing these improvements with you as soon as possible.
We’re also currently working on a track re-opening plan for the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park which identifies the tracks that will be the focus for improvement work and re-opening over the next couple of years. We are planning to take this out to park users and local communities in December and will have a range of ways that feedback can be provided through to the end of February.
As expected with closures of this scale we certainly have challenges to work through, so we’re taking an adaptive approach and continue to learn as we go. We are grateful for the ongoing support and patience throughout this process.
We know these closures have impacted on people’s ability to enjoy the forest.
Thank you for your efforts to comply with the rules so far. It’s been a big change for everyone and we have been heartened by the high levels of compliance that we’ve seen, and the genuine desire to do the right thing.
As Aucklanders, we’ve all got an opportunity to really make a difference here. We’ve got more work to do, but we’re committed to the fight against kauri dieback.
Councillors Penny Hulse and Alf Filipaina
Chair and deputy chair of Auckland Council’s Environment and Community Committee, on behalf of staff and elected representatives who are working every day to protect Auckland’s kauri.