The Department of Conservation (DOC) has announced the closure of a 60-metre section of the Hongi Hika track at Hongi Hika Recreation Reserve in Kerikeri as a proactive step to prioritise the safety and well-being of visitors.
The Department said the decision follows the poisoning of approximately 50 large eucalyptus trees in the area, posing potential risks to the public with falling debris.
DOC’s Operations Manager Pēwhairangi/Bay of Islands Bronwyn Bauer-Hunt says: “Our top priority is the safety of everyone who visits this stunning reserve. Weare closing the affected section of the track immediately while we assess and plan our next steps.”
DOC staff are exploring various options in collaboration with hapū, Heritage New Zealand, and other stakeholders.
The proposed alternatives being considered involve felling the trees and removing them, felling them and managing the debris, or potentially letting the trees naturally fall – although this latter option is unlikely, DOC said in a statement.
“We remain open to all possibilities at this stage, and transparency and consultation with our valued partners will be at the core of our decision-making,” says Ms Bauer-Hunt.
“We aren’t ruling anything out at this stage and our priority is to close the track to protect visitors to the area. The track area that will be closed will have minimal impact on visitors to the area with an alternate route available to loop people around the trees.”
DOC staff have identified a person of interest who is assisting them with enquiries into the matter.