Department of Conservation launches track upgrades

Lezette Reid and Geoff Reid, mother and son members of Friends of Okura Bush, working to protect and preserve the Okura ...
PETER MEECHAM

Lezette Reid and Geoff Reid, mother and son members of Friends of Okura Bush, working to protect and preserve the Okura Bush on Auckland's North Shore.

The Department of Conservation has started work on a track upgrade in Okura Bush they say will prevent the spread of kauri dieback.

The walkway serves more than 60,000 visitors per year and will be closed for approximately 10 weeks while contractors work on the track.

The upgrade aims to make wet and muddy sections of track dry and involves installing about 300 metres of boardwalk and 30m of geoweb, plastic, honeycomb-like cells that are filled with bark and gravel.

Geoweb is a plastic structure packed with gravel and bark.
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Geoweb is a plastic structure packed with gravel and bark.

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DOC northern North Island operation director Sue Reed-Thomas says the track upgrades are not limited to Okura.

"There are up to 200 DOC tracks spread from Tauranga north where action is needed over the next three years to protect kauri. We'll be working closely with treaty partners … and community conservation groups to protect the kauri alongside these tracks," Reed-Thomas says

DOC has $21.6 million for track upgrades and maintenance to prevent kauri dieback and increase awareness of the disease.

Environmental group Friends of Okura Bush has previously expressed concerns about the effect of placing plastic in the forest.

The group has been campaigning for three years for a fully boardwalked track along the popular 8 kilometre long walkway.

Friends of Okura Bush's Lezette Reid says the group has had a long period of negotiation with DOC and are largely pleased with the outcome.

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The original plans called for 285m of geoweb.

"There is still 30m they insist on putting in even though we have offered to pay for a boardwalk to be installed instead," Lezette says.

The group says a seven-year trial of geoweb in other places isn't long enough to prove that it works .

She says people should adhere to the track closures to avoid spreading dieback.

Group member Geoff Reid says putting plastic in the forest is a short-term fix to a long-term problem and future upgrades could disturb roots.

"In 20 to 30 years we're going to have to pull this stuff out because no one wants plastic in the forest," Geoff says.

"A boardwalk is best practice and that's what we want."

Tracks in Northland are also closed for upgrades and a full list of closure notices can be found at doc.govt.nz.

Preventing the spread of Kauri Dieback:

Kauri dieback is caused when microscopic spores in the soil infect kauri roots and damage the tissues that carry nutrients within the tree.

Infected trees show many symptoms including loss of leaves, dead branches, bleeding gum, and canopy thinning.

The disease is spread mainly through soil movement, including on running shoes, tramping boots, mountain bikes and equipment.

Always keep to the defined tracks

Clean and remove soil from your shoes and equipment before and after entering kauri forest areas.

Stay away from kauri tree roots as much as possible.

Keep your dog on a leash.

Report suspected sightings of diseased kauri to 0800 695 2874 or visit kauridieback.co.nz

 - Stuff

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