Drivers damage DOC land
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.