Saturday, April 13, 2024

DOC urges conservation caution post-cyclone

Members of the public are being urged to check tracks, huts and campsites are open before attempting to visit conservation land in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, the Department of Conservation (DOC) warned today.

“This is an unprecedented event,” says DOC Deputy Director-General Organisation Support, Mike Tully.

“DOC’s priority at this point is the safety of the public, staff, contractors and volunteers.”

Mr Tully said that extensive areas of public conservation land across the North Island had been affected by the cyclone. DOC facilities in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti, and Hawke’s Bay have been closed to the public for the past week. 

“It will take time for DOC to make sure that conservation areas are safe,” he said.

“We’re urging the public to please bear with us while we wait for the waters to recede and begin the clean-up. We need to understand the scale of the damage to tracks, huts, campsites and other DOC facilities and make decisions on repairs.

“This is a huge job for DOC. Some sites will need initial checks, formal assessments and then full engineering inspections.”

Mr Tully said DOC facilities in affected areas will stay closed until they are deemed safe to reopen.

“As sites are inspected, we will open up public conservation areas, with some expected to open on Monday. We urge people to check our website for details on individual facilities before they venture out, as this will be updated daily.”

“Decisions on reopening facilities will be made once DOC staff can access these areas safely. We will be prioritising the most accessible and high-use sites first.”

Across the North Island and the top of the South Island, people should use extreme caution outdoors and be prepared to turn back on trails, said Mr Tully.

“Backcountry tracks and huts are yet to be fully assessed; all should be treated with extreme caution until assessments can be completed. We recommend you do not enter these areas as the risk levels are unknown. Any use is at your own risk,” he said.

“Please do not use areas that have not been checked and declared safe. Report any damage you encounter to the local DOC office.” 

Check the DOC website for latest alerts and closures.

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