Driv­ers dam­age DOC land

Waikato News - - Front Page - Lau­rilee McMichael

A Taupo¯ hunter is wor­ried that pub­lic ac­cess to an area of Con­ser­va­tion Depart­ment land will be cut off by moves to re­strict ve­hi­cle ac­cess to the area.

The Ran­gi­taiki Con­ser­va­tion Area is an eco­log­i­cally im­por­tant area to the south of the Napier Taupo¯ high­way (SH5), 40km from Taupo¯. It con­tains one of New Zealand’s few re­main­ing ar­eas of frost flats and im­por­tant plants in­clud­ing monoao, which are not found any­where else in New Zealand.

But the land and nearby wet­land are be­ing badly dam­aged by 4WDs, quad bikes and mo­tor­cy­cles, which do not stick to the formed track but range widely across the area, killing plants and caus­ing ero­sion.

To fur­ther com­pli­cate mat­ters, part of the 8km or so of track lead­ing into the con­ser­va­tion area crosses a strip of DOC land, then a par­cel of pri­vate land be­long­ing to East Taupo¯ Lands Trust, and the land own­ers are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly fed-up with the dam­age be­ing done.

Ivan Pem­ber­ton, who has been vis­it­ing the Ran­gi­taiki Con­ser­va­tion Area for hunt­ing and re­cre­ation since he was a boy, says he’s wor­ried DOC will close pub­lic ac­cess with­out no­ti­fi­ca­tion which would pun­ish re­spon­si­ble users.

He says he’d heard DOC is propos­ing to lease the strip of land next to the high­way, which would pre­vent ac­cess to the con­ser­va­tion area behind.

But DOC Cen­tral Plateau op­er­a­tions-man­ager Dave Lum­ley says while the depart­ment has not made any de­ci­sion about how to man­age the prob­lem of ve­hi­cle dam­age, pub­lic ac­cess will re­main— although it may need to be on foot.

Mr Pem­ber­ton says while he un­der­stands that DOC needs to stop the ve­hi­cle dam­age and walk­ing is a pos­si­bil­ity, it’s “a bloody long way” — the drive in takes 25 min­utes at a slow speed.

Mr Pem­ber­ton said if ve­hi­cles would keep to the formed track, the dam­age could be avoided.

“There’s pri­vate peo­ple in there all the time. They do make amess, I can un­der­stand that, but DOC have taken the easy way out.

“There should be a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to it. DOC need to put in signs and po­lice it . . . peo­ple will think twice be­fore driv­ing in there if they get a trespass no­tice at least.

“It won’t take long for the word to get out that it’s get­ting se­ri­ous and it’ll stop most of them.”

DOC’s Dave Lum­ley says ve­hi­cle users are cre­at­ing their own tracks and “just hooning around” and DOC was strug­gling to find a way to pre­vent it. The prob­lem was con­tin­u­ing to worsen, he said.

Ve­hi­cles were dam­ag­ing the monoao and other plants and there was also a big fire risk as the frost flat veg­e­ta­tion is very fire prone.

“They’re quite spe­cial plants and there’s nowhere near as many as there used to be.

“There’s ve­hi­cle dam­age in­clud­ing from mo­tor­bikes to plants and the gen­eral land­scape is look­ing re­ally trashed.”

DOC was plan­ning to en­gage with the com­mu­nity on a plan for the Ran­gi­taiki Con­ser­va­tion Area but at this stage lacked the ca­pac­ity to im­ple­ment it, he said, and sim­ply sta­tion­ing a DOC mem­ber there to en­force the rules was not fea­si­ble.

“We’re look­ing at ways of re­duc­ing the ve­hi­cle ac­cess. If there’s a sim­ple way of do­ing it, we would have done it by now.”

Mr Pem­ber­ton says he is will­ing to dis­cuss pos­si­ble so­lu­tions with DOC as he doesn’t want to lose ac­cess to the con­ser­va­tion area for hunt­ing, for him­self and for his chil­dren, in­clud­ing his 18-year-old daugh­ter who has been shoot­ing deer in there since she was nine.

They’re quite spe­cial plants and there’s nowhere near as many as there used to be.

Dave Lum­ley, DOC

Mo­tor­bikes and 4WDs not keep­ing to the formed track are de­stroy­ing sen­si­tive plants and caus­ing ero­sion.

PRE­CIOUS LAND­SCAPE: The Ran­gi­taiki Con­ser­va­tion Area. Off-road ve­hi­cles and mo­tor­bikes are caus­ing dam­age to what is an eco­log­i­cally im­por­tant frost flats land­scape.

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