It was an interesting night to hear all the different community groups views on the planned Hillary Trail event – some very positive, some very negative and a few in between. This is pretty much what I’ve experienced for the last three months of attending different consultation meetings. After each of these meetings I come away thinking this battle is too hard and it’s never going to happen, the grind is not worth it. But a day later I think back to why I want to put on the event and get all enthusiastic again.
The “In-betweens” and “Very Negatives” are most concerned about PTA (Kauri Dieback). There is small niggles about disturbing other park users and track deterioration we can easily resolve through our normal measures – signage, notification, briefing participants etc. We’ve been doing this for a few years now. We’ve had photo monitoring of our events which have proven no long term track deterioration.
The Kauri Dieback issue is the big one. For those that don’t know Kauri Dieback, commonly known as PTA (Phytophthora taxon Agathis) is a fungus-like disease that only affects Kauri. It is believed to be soil-borne, spread by soil and soil water movement, human and animal vectors. Kauri dieback presents a serious threat to iconic kauri trees in the Waitakere Ranges. For international followers Kauri are very special to NZ – Kauri are among the world’s mightiest trees, growing to more than 50 metres tall, with trunk girths of up to 16 metres and living for more than 2000 years.
For the event we cover this risk through our/council mitigation measures of education and the increased use of specialised footbaths. The council has come up with a plan on where footbaths should be positioned, based on the audit of the infected kauri. These footbaths will be manned meaning 100% coverage of all participants (compared to the 20-30% coverage of general public useage of the footwash stations currently). The Trigene wash is proven to be very effective in killing the PTA spores. We’ve been using this approach for our events in the Waitakere Ranges for the last 3 years or so.
We take the position that the Council biosecurity experts have come up with an effective plan to reduce the risk of our event spreading the disease. In fact an event with 100% coverage in footbaths could easily be argued to be less of a risk in spreading the spores than a month of general public using the tracks. This is not the view of the “Very Negatives”. They believe until we rid the park of the disease or we can say there is absolutely no risk of spreading the disease, that there should be no events and in some cases they say we should close the park to all users.
The other side of the “Very Negatives” is that we should not be putting on an event that encourages a whole bunch of people into the park. They claim it as a regional park for use by Auckland people, not a national park. Why can’t we have the event in some other park? They claim we shouldn’t be encouraging people from around New Zealand or international visitors to come to the park. Obviously that is exactly what I plan with the event and in my presentation put this as a positive for promotion of the Hillary Trail, the Waitakere Ranges and indeed Auckland as a city.
So you can see the fine balancing act that the council must consider in the application for the event and even more widely – public use of the park itself. The balance of getting people into and enjoying an asset that we all own, experiencing the outdoors and all the benefits that that comes with that versus protecting the park and most importantly at present preventing the spread of Kauri Dieback.
At present if the event goes ahead it’s been indicated that the event will have a 500 person limit and only 132 people will be able to do the full course as this starts in the most sensitive area of the park where the kauri protection zones are concentrated. The rest will start from Piha and Bethells.
So how can you help?! The council at the meeting indicated that they will accept submissions from people – negative and positive. These will be considered in forming a report that goes to the Parks Recreation & Heritage Forum meeting in August. They then recommend an action to the Regional Development & Operations Committee in September, which will be to approve or not approve the event!
This isn’t a numbers game though, with the most for or against winning. They want to hear all the arguments for and against – reasons why the event should take place or not. And I think the best submissions to help me would be submissions that note how the risks and issues noted above are covered. I have explained many times, how events actually help with education, 100% footbath coverage, we all respect the environment and realise how lucky we are to be in the park etc. but it would be good they heard it from others. What have you experienced at our other events – what about when you are in the park yourselves?
Submissions are due by 20th July and should be emailed to Annette.Campion@aucklandcounci
We will get this event approved and started at 5am on 6th April 2013!