The days of driving to the summit of Auckland's volcanic cones are coming to an end, starting with a ban on all vehicles up Mt Eden.
This could be followed by a ban covering the summits of other volcanoes with road access - One Tree Hill, Mt Wellington, Mt Albert, Mt Roskill and Mt Victoria.
A new authority to manage 14 volcanic cones yesterday approved in principle extending a 2011 ban on buses driving to the summit of Mt Eden/Maungawhau to all vehicles.
A detailed report on how and when to implement the vehicle ban will be presented to the Tupuna Maunga o Tamaki Makaurau Authority in April for a final decision.
It is expected to allow coaches and cars to drive halfway up the volcano to a kiosk area where there is a parking and turning area. People will then walk 200m to the summit.
Options for transporting the elderly and disabled to the summit, and rules relating to cycling and mountain-biking, will be included in the detailed study.
A report to yesterday's meeting raised the possibility of extending the vehicle ban to other volcanoes.
The proposed ban was welcomed by proponents, but a tourism body warned that it might run counter to efforts to increase tourist bed-nights in the city.
The authority is a body set up by the Government in 2012 to manage ownership of the volcanoes vested in local Maori and includes representatives from the Crown, Tamaki Collective and Auckland Council.
One council representative, Glenda Fryer, said no one was allowed to drive up to the Acropolis in Athens or around Stonehenge in England, and the same should apply to Auckland's volcanoes, or maunga.
"Maungawhau is a respectful place and it gives reverence to walk up the maunga to look at the view."
Buses, which carry almost half of the 1.2 million people who visit the mountain each year, were stopped in 2011 from driving all the way to the summit. They can still go as far as the kiosk.
A report by volcanic cones manager Scott De Silva said the 2011 restrictions on heavy vehicles had been very successful from a parks perspective.
"It has resulted in not only a significant reduction in congestion at the summit but also a change in attitudes of visitors. This change has seen a steady number of visitors choosing to walk rather than drive."
Friends of Maungawhau chairman Kit Howden said banning all vehicles from the summit of Mt Eden would provide a more enjoyable, safe and healthy experience.
He said the friends had campaigned for 10 years for improved management and removing vehicles from the summit, saying this Sunday was "Love Your Mountain Day", when the park would be closed to vehicles to encourage walking.
Tourism Export Council chief executive Lesley Immink said a lot of coaches no longer went to Mt Eden and chose to go to the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial at Bastion Pt for a harbour view.
Most Asian groups did not want to walk, so their tour companies avoided Mt Eden, she said.
Ms Immink said making it harder for coaches to access the summits of the city's volcanoes and park in the central business district was not in line with the work of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development to boost the number of tourist bed-nights in the city.
In a statement, Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley said the council body would be providing input into the authority's report on banning motor vehicles on Mt Eden, but did not say what it would be.
"It is our understanding that no decision has been made to carry the same restrictions over to other maunga at this time," he said.
Meanwhile, the council is looking to sell two 14-seat electric shuttles costing $28,842 each that were trialled on Mt Eden when coaches were banned from the summit.
Demand was lower than expected and they were replaced with a 12-seater van. The proceeds will go to the maunga operations budget.
What volcanic cones in Auckland have vehicle access?
Motor vehicles can drive to the summits of One Tree Hill, Mt Wellington, Mt Albert, Mt Roskill and Mt Victoria. Cars can drive to the summit of Mt Eden, but coaches can drive only halfway up.
What changes are proposed?
All motor vehicles will be banned from Mt Eden and a similar ban may later be extended to other volcanoes with road access.
What reasons are being given for banning motor vehicles?
The Government has handed ownership of 14 volcanoes over to local Maori. The volcanoes are managed by a maunga (volcano) authority with Maori, Auckland Council and Crown representatives who want people to have a safe environment consistent with the preservation of the reserves' heritage values.
Will public access be stopped?
Not at all. Anyone will be able to walk to the summit of the volcanic cones and transport will be provided to the elderly and disabled. Coaches, though, will be banned and rules applied for cyclists and mountain-bikers.
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