The Auckland Regional Council’s (ARC) has amended the plan for the management of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Parkland. The Council wants to more actively manage the pressures the parkland is under due to its proximity to a large and rapidly growing metropolitan area.
“The people of Auckland primarily visit the Ranges for the peace and quiet afforded by the natural qualities of the park, and an escape from the pressures of urban life. The Plan gives priority to protection of this experience, while catering for other compatible activities,” says Cr Coney, Chair of the ARC Parks and Heritage Committee.
The ARC is trying to balance the ecological and scenic importance of the park, with the needs of visitors, those seeking active recreation, volunteers carrying out conservation work and communities who live alongside and within the park. It wants to prevent over-use of particular areas which are popular or which have very sensitive environments.
“Parts of the parkland are showing signs and wear and tear, and there is also evidence of the development of informal tracks, especially around stream banks,” says Cr Sandra Coney
“As a result off-track activity is discouraged in the Plan.”
The Plan continues the current system whereby informal activities, such as walking and picnicking are accessible as of right, and other organised activities (usually involving high numbers) require a permit.
The new aspect of the plan is to place limits on large-scale organised sporting activities at six specific locations which are particularly sensitive ecologically and/or are under pressure from visitors – Anawhata, Pararaha, Glen Esk, North Piha, Whatipu and Karekare.
The numbers set in these limits allow for all existing organized sporting activities. The ARC will work with sports organisers to identify other locations in the Waitakeres and other parkland where further events can occur. The Waitakere parkland is 17000 ha and there are 278 kms of track so there is room for events to be spread through the park, rather than clustered at particular locations.
Filming, education groups and community gatherings will not be subjected to these limits but the ARC will work with groups such as the film industry to set protocols and work towards accreditation.
In 2002 the status of Whatipu sand accretion was changed to that of a Scientific Reserve. The purpose of the scientific reserve is for study and education of this unique area, which is home to a number of threatened and endangered plants and birds. The Plan discourages activities that would be inconsistent with this purpose, but the ARC will work with providers to find alternative locations for their activities.
The Plan puts emphasis on the need to educate all visitors to the park, on the ecological and heritage aspects of the park to encourage an ethic of stewardship. The ARC intends to hold workshops for groups holding regular activities in the park and an annual parks forum to provide opportunities for stakeholders to meet and discuss issues on the park.
The sub-committee, of Councillors Sandra Coney, Christine Rose and Paul Walbran, which heard submissions on the management plan variation today expressed their satisfaction with this review process.
“This was a very interactive process with our interest groups. We feel that we got a better understanding of the needs of each group and came up with positive solutions.
“On the whole, the deliberative process was very constructive and submitters displayed a high level of awareness and professionalism allowing us to make balanced adjustments to the policy framework,” says Cr Coney.
· The Plan retains the current status of mountain biking as prohibited as the Council was concerned at the ability to contain mountain biking within a designated area of the park, as well as the priority of investing further in the maintenance of existing walking/tramping tracks.
· The Committee could not see a way to accommodate four-wheel drive vehicles in the Waitakeres, but the ARC will continue to try and identify other locations for this activity.
· The Committee which heard submissions has also asked that Council officers report back on the status of tracks, and maintenance needs and costs, to address the current under-investment in track maintenance.
· At an extraordinary meeting of the Parks and Heritage Committee today, the recommendations of a hearing sub-committee, relating to Variation No.2 to the Regional Parks Management Plan 2002, were recommended to Council for adoption.
· Relating only to the Waitakere Ranges Regional Parkland, and with a particular focus on upgrading the visitor management framework, this variation, if adopted by Council, will replace Section 55 of the Regional Parks Management Plan 2002.
· The recommendations of this extraordinary meeting of the Parks and Heritage Committee will go to Council on Monday 24 September