Closing ‘forest areas’ not enough to save Kauri, says iwi

Auckland Council's environment committee has unanimously voted for more closures in the Waitakere Ranges to protect against Kauri dieback disease but iwi Te Kawerau-a-Maki say that doesn't go far enough.

The options put to the environment committee today were to either leave protection measures as they are, put in more closures or enforce a complete closure.

They voted unanimously on the second option which will mean closing off forest areas in the Waitakere Ranges with exceptions for beach areas, pasture land and some tracks that are deemed safe.

However, local iwi Te Kawerau-a-Maki remain firm on their customary prohibition over all areas in the park despite visitors saying they wouldn't obey the rāhui unless council enforces it.

The iwi say the council's new measures aren't enough.

Iwi spokesperson Rewi Spraggon says, “We support the third option proposed for a full closure of the forest, at the moment our prohibition covers the entire area.”

The number of diseased trees has doubled in the last five years and the council identified that what they have been doing isn't working with many people ignoring sanitising stations and warnings that currently stand across forty four tracks.

Tougher measures require government approval to issue 'controlled area' notices which would enable people to be trespassed and would allow prosecutions of visitors who walk out with soil on their boots.

"Aucklanders and visitors alike are ignoring those cleaning stations, the track closures and also the general calls to respect the rāhui.  So we do need to look at our options to ensure that we are containing the disease within the Waitakere Ranges," says Spraggon.

To date, there are no known cases of infection in the Hunua Ranges. However, the council has been in discussion with iwi Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Paoa and Ngāti Tamaoho.

The council also agreed to close high-risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges.  Consultations will now take place on the matter and the council is meeting again in April with implementation likely in May.