A scenic bush walk through the heart of Great Barrier Island has been re-opened almost two years after it suffered extensive damage in a ferocious storm.
The 25km-long Aotea Track -- an important contributor to the island's tourist economy -- was partly closed after the June 2014 storm brought more than 440mm of rain over three days, including 304mm in just four hours over the night of June 10.
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said the storm caused extensive damage to Great Barrier's infrastructure. Landslides and slips destroyed bridges and wiped out whole sections of the Department of Conservation's tracks, including large parts of the Aotea Track through the mountainous interior of the island.
"Most of the damage was repaired within six months, but four tracks, including the Kaiaraara section of the Aotea walk, needed more extensive work," Ms Barry said.
Five bridges and 13 sections of the Kaiaraara Track had to be rebuilt at a cost of $353,000 before it could be reopened -- the last piece of track repair on Great Barrier to be completed.
The full Aotea Track loop has now been restored and can once again be enjoyed by trampers.
Ms Barry said the track was a world-class multi-day track, and the centrepiece of the Aotea Conservation Park, which covers more than 40 per cent of Great Barrier and was opened last year.
"It features beautiful native bush including kauri, rimu and the Great Barrier tree daisy, which is unique to the island. Walkers also have the opportunity to see kaka, kakariki and fernbirds among other native wildlife, only a 30 minute flight from Auckland."
Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye, whose electorate includes Great Barrier, reopened the track on Ms Barry's behalf today.
She said it was a vital tourist attraction and economic asset to the Island.
"Now that the Aotea Track redevelopment is complete, I am going to ask that consideration be given for the track to get greater recognition. I expect to seek advice from local and central Government over the coming months about how we can do this," she said.
"I would love to see more New Zealanders visit and experience Great Barrier Island. The Island is a special part of New Zealand and the Government's investment in the track is an important boost for tourism on the Island."