Bush track format fails trees

Packing stones directly on to tree roots stresses them out and you can see they're now dying.

CARELESS: Geoff Reid points out how a tree root has been chopped to make way for a stone-clad path.
Hannah Morris

CARELESS: Geoff Reid points out how a tree root has been chopped to make way for a stone-clad path.

Native trees are "stressed and dying" along a public North Shore bush walk, according to a resident bush volunteer.

Friends of Okura Bush co-ordinator Geoff Reid says the forest floor is suffering under a tightly packed stone chip walkway, which is part of the track linking Okura to Stillwater via bush.

He says the upgrade to the southern end of the path has left puriri, kanuka and taraire trees in a bad state.

SUFFERING: One of the trees which has come down on the Okura Bush walkway.
Hannah Morris

SUFFERING: One of the trees which has come down on the Okura Bush walkway.

"Packing stones directly on to tree roots stresses them out and you can see they're now dying. Some of the roots have even been completely sawn off to make way for the path," he said.

The gravel path was laid by contractors for the Department of Conservation to reduce the risk of kauri dieback disease and eliminate wet and muddy sections of the track.

DOC Auckland conservation services manager Keith Gell said $320,000 was spent on the upgrade and the stone chips aren't the reason certain trees are suffering.

A number of environmental factors including the severe drought that affected Auckland and the rest of the North Island last summer, may have caused the trees to drop leaves or die, he said.

As well, a geotextile fabric was laid under the path to protect exposed tree roots.

Reid accepts an upgrade was necessary, but believes a raised path is a better long-term option.

He understands DOC's position and says the main problem is coming from central government.

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"I know they've got a job to do just like everyone but there's so much paperwork and red tape around community volunteer groups having any real say," he said.

Friends of Okura Bush members carry out trapping and weeding on a weekly basis along the track.

Gell said they are working with Reid's group to develop a plan for ongoing management of kauri in the reserve.

With big housing developments on the horizon for surrounding areas, Reid believes a raised walkway still needs to be constructed on at least 1.6 kilometres of the track.

Increasing popularity is a big part of the problem, he said.

"People should be able to enjoy it, but not if the forest is suffering," he said.

"We need to get the right infrastructure in place, so it's still here for future generations to enjoy."

 - North Shore Times

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