By ANNE BESTON
A multimillion-dollar spend-up on the great outdoors means bikes will be allowed back on two of Auckland's best-known islands.
The Department of Conservation has announced how it will spend the $349 million Government funding boost granted this year for recreational facilities throughout the country.
In Auckland, that means cyclists will be allowed back on roads on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands and new campsites will be provided on Great Barrier Island, one of the few truly remote experiences the region has to offer.
Sea-kayaker Vincent Maire said kayakers welcomed new campsites because at present they had nowhere to stop on the long journey from Great Barrier's western coast round to the east.
Other campsites are being considered for Waiheke and at Wreck Bay on Rangitoto.
Tramping tracks at Wellsford, the Bombay Hills and near the Hunua Ranges that were to be closed will now be upgraded and maintained.
Trials of cycle touring on Rangitoto and Motutapu have not been successful in the past, with conflict between walkers and cyclists, said Auckland conservation boss Rob McCallum.
Now cyclists would be restricted to roads, with increased signage helping to keep the two groups apart.
DoC plans to remove the wharf at Two House Bay on Kawau Island and stop maintaining the wharf and historic Shultz's cottage at Sunny Bay, also on the island.
DoC is negotiating with upset local residents for them to take over maintenance.
Meanwhile, Conservation Minister Chris Carter said 625km of tracks would be built nationwide over the next 10 years and 435km would be phased out.
DoC had tried to balance the demands of traditional tramping and mountaineering groups with skyrocketing demand from tourists and increasing numbers of city dwellers visiting conservation land.
"Our back-country recreation assets have developed incrementally over generations.
"Many are now out of kilter with what people today do on conservation land and, just as importantly, what they are likely to do in the future."
David Pattemore, the northern conservation officer for the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, said he was disappointed to hear through the media of the move to allow bikes on to Rangitoto and Motutapu.
He wondered how DoC would make sure bikes were not ridden off the roads on the unique and fragile ecosystem of Rangitoto.
"The potential for damage is quite huge - not only to tyres," he said, referring to the tough volcanic earth on the island which supports many delicate life forms.
He wandered if there was a strong public mandate on the issue.