Auckland Council votes to close Waitakere Ranges

Auckland Council has voted to close the Waitakere Ranges and parts of the Hunua Ranges to the public amidst the burgeoning threat of kauri dieback disease.

The council has unanimously opted to shut off forests in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park by May 1, 2018.

High-risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park will also be closed by that date. The Hunua Ranges do not suffer from kauri dieback, but the use of the tracks has been discontinued to prevent it spreading further.

The recommended actions for the council's Environment and Community Committee are subject to consultation with local boards and iwi.

The spread of kauri dieback has more than doubled in the past five years, with 19 percent of kauri now infected. The disease eats into the roots of the tree, stripping the canopy and causing bark to waste away.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says it is important that the council errs on the side of caution in protecting kauri, which is indigenous to New Zealand.

"I think this option allows us, by May when we make the final decision here, to say forested areas are closed, other than for the areas where science and empirical facts show it is safe to go," he said.

"We're not keeping [people] out of it for the sake of it - we're keeping them out because that is what is necessary to preserve what they are going there to see.

"It makes sense to do it that way."

Mr Goff said he hoped the Government would help in the fight to protect kauri not just in the Waitakeres, but in other heavily forested areas too.

The council's proposed changes come after a rāhui was imposed on the ranges in November 2017, to stop foot traffic in hopes of minimising the spread of kauri dieback.

Auckland Council's responsibility to protect kauri is reflected in its proposed Regional Pest Management Plan.