THE call is out for cows to be moved off of Mt St John to prevent more damage to the significant archaeological site.
Cattle have long been grazed on the mountain as a way of controlling vegetation and reducing the risk of fire.
Opponents call the practice ‘‘shameful mistreatment’’ and are asking the Auckland Council to not renew a lease which has been rolling over on a monthby-month basis since 1992.
Earlier this year the council announced plans to seek Unesco world heritage status for the city’s volcanic field.
Large dips that were once used for storing kumara, terraces dug into the crater, and man-made ridges are all reminders that Mt St John was once a pa.
‘‘Over time, with rain and natural processes, they will blur, fill in and wear away. But what we are doing by just allowing large animals to wander wherever they want is accelerating that process,’’ Ngati Whatua Orakei Whai Maia Ltd heritage and resource management unit senior manager Malcolm Paterson says.
‘‘It’s a deep irony that we’re doing that at the same time we’re saying these are going to be world heritage sites. It makes a mockery of it.’’
There are other options for vegetation control and the mountain doesn’t necessarily need to look like a ‘‘bowling green’’, he says.
Cattle were moved off Mt Eden in 2009.
‘‘Officers accept that they degrade these places, which was the basis for taking them off Maungawhau,’’ Albert-Eden Local Board chairman Peter Haynes says.
‘‘Unfortunately, four years after that, it hasn’t been used as a template for other places.’’
He says the board and Maori have made their opposition to cattle grazing well known over the years. But the board believes the council is considering renewing the lease on a more permanent basis.
Mt St John is one of 15 volcanic cones included in a Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Tamaki Collective and will be cogoverned by the Tupuna Maunga o Tamaki Makaurau Authority consisting of Maori, council, and crown representatives.
A bill to allow the handover had its first reading in Parliament at the beginning of the month.
‘‘The council’s timing is just bizarre,’’ Mr Haynes says.
Any decision to remove cattle would need to be made in conjunction with the yet to be formed maunga authority, the council’s manager of regional and specialist parks Mace Ward says.
Removing the cattle is not an immediate solution, he says.
‘‘Prior to taking any action on this, either to review the licence or remove stock, the council must consider all of the options available, look at the costs and benefits, of each option and consult with stakeholders.’’
He says stock levels are adjusted depending on the ground conditions and only young, lighter cows are used.