The walkway - from the Haigh Road entrance to Dacre Cottage - will be closed from Saturday May 12 to prevent the spread of kauri dieback. This track closure, under the Reserves Act, means access to this 4.2km stretch of walkway is prohibited.
The track closure is supported by a rāhui placed over Okura Bush Scenic Reserve by mana whenua. As a matter of tikanga, the purpose of the rāhui is to enable the environment to recuperate and regenerate without the presence and impacts of humans.
Kauri dieback is caused by microscopic spores in soil that infect kauri roots. People can spread the disease on their footwear by walking through mud contaminated with kauri dieback spores. Higher rainfall in Auckland in the winter increases the amount of mud that can be moved along the track.
The Okura upgrade to date has included measures to eliminate muddy sections of track. New drains have been laid and large sections of track have been board walked. The middle section of the track was realigned in 2012 to protect a stand of kauri.
“There is still some work to be done to protect kauri growing next to the Okura walkway. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to complete the upgrade work before winter, when Auckland has its wettest months, so closure is the safest option at this time," says DOC Auckland Mainland Operations Manager Kirsty Prior.
"Te Kawerau ā Maki welcome the decision by DOC to respect the rāhui and close Okura Bush Scenic Reserve until we can be positive the tracks are safe for kauri,” says Te Kawerau ā Maki Executive Manager Edward Ashby.
“We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with DOC staff to keep our ngahere and kauri safe," says Edward Ashby.
The walkway will undergo further track upgrades including the installation of two new walk-through footwear cleaning stations. One of the stations will be installed at the southern Haigh Road entrance and the second above the steps near Dacre Cottage.
“DOC and mana whenua are committed to ensuring Okura Walkway is safe for kauri,” says Kirsty Prior.
A ceremony to place the rahui will occur on Saturday May 12 at sunrise. The rahui is led by Te Kawerau a Maki; Ngati Manuhiri and Ngati Rehua.