We’re so lucky to have one of North Island’s most prized jewels, the Waitākere Ranges, on our doorstep, and until, we find a way to kill kauri dieback, must do all we can to protect this taonga for future generations.
This evocative western strip of Aotearoa’s second city comprises 16,000 hectares of dense forest, rolling hills, cliff faces and black sandy beaches that tumble into the some of the country’s best surf. However, since 2018, many of the 250km of hiking trails have been to stem the spread of the disease, scientifically named phytophthora agathidicida, that has so far killed thousands of trees since at least 2006. It’s not just the loss of kauri that’s the tragedy, nearly 20 other species rely on them within the ecosystem, so when they die there are knock-on effects throughout the forest.
Kauri dieback is mainly spread by humans, its microscope spores attaching themselves to the bottom of shoes before being walked into other areas where the then affixes to kauri roots to starve the trees of nutrients. Sadly, a 2016 report found more than eight out of 10 visitors to the ranges don’t use the cleaning stations when entering tracks, went off track and used tracks that were closed. Earlier this year it was announced six more of the tracks would open, with 11 more to open soon, bringing the total to around 50 (of 145). There are also plans to upgrade and build more.
Head to the Auckland Council website for a list of all the open tracks, in the meantime, here are five of the best:
- Kitekite Falls: a perennial favourite, this one-hour trail winds its way from the end of Glen Esk Road in Piha to the gorgeous waterfall, replete with swimmable water hole. Call in for a bite and a beer at Piha Café when you’re done.
- Caves Track: A great adventure for the kids. Right next to Whatipu Beach and the dune wetlands, the short Caves Track winds its way past a series of cliff face caves, the largest of which one hosted a ballroom! However, the dancefloor has long since been buried beneath the drifting sands.
- Huia Lookout: Head here for a panoramic view of the Waitakere Ranges and over the coastline toward Manakau Harbour and the Awhitu sand bar. It’s a short, easy walk in and out from the carpark off Huia Road.
- Huia Dam Road: Those wanting to stretch their legs a little further should make for the Huia Dam Stretching for around 10km with some pretty impressive views of both Upper and Lower Huia Dams. This one’s a goodie for runner and cyclists, too.
- Anawhata Beach: A real hidden gem of the ranges, this track winds down to one of the region’s best—and, whisper it—best kept secrets, Anawhata Beach. From the carpark on Anwhata Road, it’s about a 20-minute walk down to the enclosed sands that are home to some strange rock formations and super surf breaks.
Help to protect from kauri dieback by:
- Cleaning shoes, tyres and outdoor equipment before and after entering kauri forest
- Ensure scrubbing and spraying of shoes at the cleaning stations at the entry to tracks on the way in and out.
- Stick to the trails and well away from kauri roots.
- Preferably dogs should not be walked in affected areas, but if you do, keep them on a leash.