A preview of the Hūnua Traverse cycle trail will be opened this winter, enabling public access to up to 38km of the new 44km Nga Haerenga Heartland trail.
At the northern end, 14km of the Hūnua Traverse will open from Clevedon to Otau Mountain, providing weekend riding in the Hūnua Ranges Regional Park between Otau Mountain Road and the top of Moumoukai Hill Road, Ness Valley.
“A weather-related slip on Otau Mountain Road had delayed the proposed February launch of the Hūnua Traverse, but Auckland Transport have now repaired the road and we can give cyclists the all clear, albeit on weekends and public holidays only to avoid logging trucks,” says Hūnua Traverse Project Coordinator, Nicki Henshaw.
In the south, existing 7-day a week cycling access in the Moumoukai Valley will be extended south over Mangatangi Hill to Workman Road where riders can continue on public roads to Kaiaua on the Seabird Coast, a total of 24km of the Hūnua Traverse.
Regrettably, damage wreaked by Cyclone Gabrielle to a road in the middle of the Hūnua Traverse means that the full connection between Clevedon and Kaiaua won’t open anytime soon.
“The slip on Keeney Road is a major,” says Nicki.
“Geotechnical engineers have warned us that a portion of the road is at risk of slipping down the hill. Watercare is responsible for maintaining this road and has confirmed its commitment to repairing it, but with a long list of weather-related damage across its network, we need to be patient. In the meantime, all vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians need to keep away from the area.”
The May 9 weather bomb event caused a small number of new slips and track washouts across the Hūnua Ranges Regional Park. These are all anticipated to be cleared and restored by the time the Hūnua Traverse preview opens in winter. An exact opening date will be announced once a kauri dieback survey is completed in the area.
“The Hūnua Ranges are home to the largest kauri forest in New Zealand that remains free of the insidious kauri dieback disease,” says Angela Fulljames, Chair of the Franklin Local Board.
The large-scale survey, the third of its kind in the Hūnua Ranges, is looking for any evidence of Phytophthora agathidicida, a fungus-like pathogen that infects and kills kauri and which has wreaked havoc on populations in Northland, the Waitākeres, the Coromandel and on Great Barrier Island.
“As soon as field work in the vicinity of the Hūnua Traverse is complete, and we have confidence that no additional delays are necessary, we’ll look forward to opening up our preview,” says Nicki.
The Hūnua Traverse will provide access into parts of the Hūnua Ranges Regional Park that have been closed to public access.
When Kauri Dieback was discovered in the Waitakere Ranges in 2018, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) placed a Controlled Area Notice (CAN) over the Hūnua Ranges to restrict access while protection measures were put in place. These included diverting trails away from kauri, building raised boardwalks, fencing off at-risk trees and constructing kauri dieback wash stations at every entry point to the park.
A team of Auckland Council compliance officers were also deployed across the Hūnua Ranges Regional Park to make sure that visitors were abiding by the conditions of the CAN, ensuring no contaminated soil was brought into the park and that people kept out of restricted areas.
“Public access into the northern reaches of the Hūnua Ranges, from Otau Mountain Road and Moumoukai Hill Road in Ness Valley, has actually been prohibited for a very long time but people had used this area for cycling and walking without perhaps realising that they were trespassing.
“With this focus on kauri protection and with new budget available to ensure compliance of the CAN conditions, Auckland Council compliance officers were made available to enforce restrictions.
It’s fair to say that some people were shocked when their access was prohibited. We’re delighted that Watercare has been willing to work with Auckland Council to officially permit some public access into this area,” says Angela.
While access to the Hūnua Traverse will be free, all users who enter the Regional Park are required to wash their shoes, bikes and camping gear at the dedicated wash stations.
“Consider it the price of entry,” says Angela. “It really is a small price to pay to protect our precious kauri.”
Visit hunuatraverse.co.nz for latest information including updates on the opening date.