A mountain of concern

CONCERNED: Ngati Whatua heritage and resource manager Ngarimu Blair believes vehicle access should be restricted to the summit of Mt Eden-Maungawhau for safety reasons.
CONCERNED: Ngati Whatua heritage and resource manager Ngarimu Blair believes vehicle access should be restricted to the summit of Mt Eden-Maungawhau for safety reasons.

Fears are being voiced about pedestrian and vehicle safety on Mt Eden-Maungawhau with extra visitors expected during the Rugby World Cup.

A report from the Friends of Maungawhau to the Albert-Eden Local Board calls for large vehicles to be taken off the summit altogether.

"There is urgency to remove large buses from the summit and control traffic before there is a serious accident or slope failure," it says.

Organisation chairman Kit Howden approached the board in February, concerned with a lack of management and direction for the mountain.

"We support heritage tourism and not the mass tourism which is not contributing to the care of the maunga and not operating in accordance with the management plan."

Tonkin and Taylor gave a report to the former Auckland City Council in 2003 saying the ring road ascending Mt Eden-Maungawhau was stable but would need ongoing monitoring to ensure safety for vehicles.

Action is only now taking place to assess the summit access route despite two surface slips over the past three years.

The council is aware that critical observations have not been performed since before the 2003 report was released.

"Although there has not been any monitoring undertaken in the past seven years, Tonkin and Taylor has now been engaged to set up a monitoring programme," council manager of local and sports parks Mark Bowater says.

Large portions of the mountain's western slopes are lacking support because of an unstable wall and the remains of an old quarry not being adequately revegetated, Mr Howden says.

These worries are coupled with Ngati Whatua O Orakei's concerns for the mountain in the lead-up to the world cup.

The hapu says ongoing management of Mt Eden-Maungawhau has been avoided altogether since the first action plan was developed in 1986.

"Lots of expert reports have been commissioned with pretty pictures drawn to explain issues on the maunga, but if you pile them up they would be nearly as high as the mountain," Ngati Whatua heritage and resource manager Ngarimu Blair says.

As well as stability of the road, he believes vehicle access should be restricted on the summit, citing safety concerns.

"There's a pedestrian and vehicle conflict going up the road, but the greatest danger to pedestrians is buses."

He says vehicles drive too quickly up the road, putting pedestrians at risk and "for this reason alone we have to question why we allow vehicles to the summit".

Mr Blair suggests traffic should be redirected to a carpark halfway up.

But Mr Bowater says the council is not concerned with either of these issues in the lead-up to September.

"We have no major concerns around management of Maungawhau during the Rugby World Cup.

"It is important to note that the expected influx of visitors to Auckland during this time will be similar to the numbers we experience, and cope with adequately, during summer time," he says.

Albert-Eden Local Board representatives are not committing to one particular plan for the next few months.

"Reducing the impacts of heavy vehicles and restricting vehicle access to the summit is just one of many options being put on the table," chairman Peter Haynes says. "At this point, no decisions have been made that result in any significant changes on Maungawhau."

Ngati Whatua and the council are working on a co-governance plan for Maungawhau and other volcanoes, which could see a new management structure in place before the world cup.

Central Leader