Rock climbers are "disappointed" in a decision to block the use of the sport's established routes on Mauao.
Yesterday Ngā Poutiriao ō Mauao, Mauao's Joint Administration Board, announced it had declined an application by the rock climbing community to use specified routes on the maunga.
In a written statement, the board referenced the impact of climbing on a rare fern, wāhi tapu sites and public safety.
It also decided not to allow new holes to be drilled for climbing bolts and anchors. "Invasive" drilling "went against the board's responsibility to protect the cultural and spiritual values of the maunga".
Chairman Dean Flavell said the board was responsible for protecting Mauao, and other users of the historic reserve.
"Although we understand the disappointment this decision will cause the rock-climbing community, we had ongoing safety concerns, which could not be addressed to the board's satisfaction.
"We feel this decision safeguards the vast number of users of Mauao and fulfils our responsibility to protect the historical, cultural and ecological values of the maunga."
There are about 50 established routes on walls on the northwest side of Mauao.
BOP Sport Climbing Association representative Kerry Crawford said climbers had been negotiating with the board for about three years to use the routes, some of which dated back to the 1980s.
"It's disappointing but it is what it is."
In his view, the risk of climbers falling or causing rockfall that could injure a track walker could have been mitigated by closing routes directly above tracks.
The same went for any nearby wāhi tapu sites.
But at the end of the day, he said he the group would respect the decision.
He said it was a shame to lose local outdoor routes, especially as they were so good for learners and kids graduating from indoor climbing, who would now need to travel to Waikato or further.
The next closest crag at Mangorewa Gorge, off State Highway 36, was for advanced climbers.
Kevin Pengally, another local sport climber, said he used to use the Mauao crag quite a bit and expected the loss of it would annoy local climbing devotees.
Closed crags was a growing issue for the sport, he said.
"Soon there will be nowhere left to climb outside."
Karen Leacock, general manager of the New Zealand Alpine Club, said crags were being closed in the North Island particularly, usually due to landowners exercising their right to withdraw access.
She said the organisation wanted to form relationships with landowners and work towards solutions to access issues.
Mauao historic reserve is owned by Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Pukenga in the form of the Mauao Trust. It is managed by the trust and Tauranga City Council via Ngā Poutiriao ō Mauao.