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More closures as kauri dieback prevention gains pace

14 May 2018  By Staff Reporter

Another Auckland walking track has been closed – albeit temporarily – as efforts to prevent the spread of kauri dieback continue.

The Department of Conservation is temporarily closing the walkway through Okura Bush Scenic Reserve on the city’s North Shore.

The closure, under the Reserves Act, came into effect this weekend and means that access to this 4.2km stretch of walkway – from the Haigh Road entrance to Dacre Cottage – has been prohibited.

The track closure is supported by a rāhui placed over Okura Bush Scenic Reserve by mana whenua.

As a matter of tikanga, the purpose of the rāhui is to enable the environment to recuperate and regenerate without the presence and impacts of humans.

Auckland environmentalists are strongly supporting a rāhui being placed on Okura Bush by local iwi Te Kawerau a Maki, Ngati Manuhiri and Ngati Rehua to protect the rare, old-growth coastal forest.

“We are very sad that it has come to this, but we fully support Mana Whenua leadership towards protecting kauri forests and their decision to temporarily close the tracks,” Friends of Okura Bush spokesperson Geoff Reid said.

Kauri dieback is caused by microscopic spores in soil that infect kauri roots.

People can spread the disease on their footwear by walking through mud contaminated with kauri dieback spores.

An upgrade to Okura Bush is underway, with activity to date including measures to eliminate muddy sections of track.

New drains have been laid and large sections of track have been board walked. The middle section of the track was realigned in 2012 to protect a stand of kauri.

DOC Auckland Mainland operations manager, Kirsty Prior, said: “There is still some work to be done to protect kauri growing next to the Okura walkway. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to complete the upgrade work before winter, when Auckland has its wettest months, so closure is the safest option at this time.”

The walkway will undergo further track upgrades including the installation of two new walk-through footwear cleaning stations. One of the stations will be installed at the southern Haigh Road entrance and the second above the steps near Dacre Cottage.

Friends of Okura Bush’s Reid added: “We are pleased that DOC is supporting the rahui with an official closure, but we remain very concerned about the lack of progress with the full scale protection that the Okura Bush and kauri need and deserve.”

In April this year Auckland Council’s environment and community committee decided to close most of the forested areas of the Waitākere Ranges to prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease, although tour operators still have access to a limited number of tracks, beaches and pasturelands.

Partly automated cleaning stations are also being rolled out by the Department of Conservation across regions at risk of kauri dieback disease.

The stations aim to give those using tracks susceptible to the disease a more thorough and convenient cleaning process.

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