Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent rebuilding Eden Park, flossying up Queens Wharf as "party central", creating new tourist "destinations" at the Tank Farm - all in the service of the Rugby World Cup.

But when it comes to Auckland's single most important tourist icon, Maungawhau, there's no sign of even a handful of change being tossed its way.

An incredible oversight, you might think, given that just about every tourist passing through Auckland ends up on the Mt Eden volcanic cone sometime on their visit.

For Kit Howden, executive director of Friends of Maungawhau, it's just more of the same sort of neglect and wasted opportunity that this prime heritage site has endured for decades.


Mr Howden got a sympathetic ear at a recent meeting of the Albert-Eden Local Board when he expressed concern at the lack of plans to cope with the influx of tourists on to the mountain during the Rugby World Cup.

Echoing the management plan prepared in the time of the Hubbard administration but not implemented, he said: "There is urgency to remove large buses from the summit and control traffic before there is a serious accident or slope failure."

He said his organisation supported "heritage tourism" but not "mass tourism" which is not contributing to the care of the maunga and not operating in accordance with the management plan.

As I talked to him yesterday, he pointed the finger at operators who exploit the mountain, driving huge buses up the sides without paying any concession for road maintenance, and often providing an inadequate visitor experience for the passengers.

During the recent "Love Your Mountain" open day, guided walk group Tamaki Hikoi conducted tours at the summit. Mr Howden, who was trying to shepherd "streams" of Chinese tourists away from the hikoi tourists, was approached by a Chinese tour guide who asked what was happening. When he explained, her response was, "What are Maori, what is a hikoi?"

It is true that the new Auckland Council has inherited decades of neglect, both of this maunga and of the others scattered across the isthmus that together provide Auckland with a unique volcanic and cultural heritage.

But with the Cup looming, the problems at Mt Eden are immediate. "It's going to be overwhelmed," Mr Howden says. "There are blocked drains, broken walls and no cohesive management plan to present Maungawhau for a tourist influx."

Surely Mt Eden must be the only "premiere" tourist attraction anywhere in the world not to have some sort of visitor centre.

Mr Howden says the obvious and economically acceptable place for a centre is the old kiosk building, which has sat vacant for years. It needs quake-proofing, but more to the point, it needs politicians to demonstrate their commitment to heritage is more than mere campaign slogans.

* On the matter of the Maori Statutory Board, councillor Mike Lee argues I erred in saying councillors agreed unanimously at the strategy and finance committee on February 8 to give the board funding of $5,501,000 over 20 months. He says he was not there and would have voted against it. The minutes record that councillors Stewart and Raffills were also absent.