A Northland hapu that put in place a rāhui on the popular Mermaid Pools is urging visitors to still visit Matapouri and enjoy other spectacular places on offer in the area.
The Te Whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu hapū yesterday morning put a rāhui in place over the popular pools at the northern headland of Matapouri and the access route over the Rangitapu headland to restore their environment, cultural and spiritual wellbeing.
A ceremony took place at Matapouri Beach at 5am yesterday to bless and dedicate a carved pou before those present went to the local marae to conclude the formalities.
The picturesque, turquoise tidal rock pools are enormously popular and draw hundreds of people in a day during long weekends and holidays.
Environmentalists, community groups, civic leaders and the local hapū have long been concerned about the degraded state of the pools and the condition of the track.
Issues include no provision of basic infrastructure like a proper track, toilets or rubbish disposal facilities and all these will have to be addressed going forward, the hapu said.
Hapū trust board chairman Aperahama Edwards said a rāhui should not discourage people from visiting Matapouri and surrounding areas.
"The number of people that's been visiting the pools has decreased significantly since we raised awareness in the last few months and we'll continue to create awareness on what the rāhui is about, not to disadvantage anyone.
"The hapū encourages people to come to Matapouri and experience other spectacular places like the beach," he said.
Edwards said while the rāhui was in place, there would be ongoing monitoring of water quality, seaweed and re-planting along the access route in partnership with the Department of Conservation and other agencies.
"We've developed an environment management plan that details work around monitoring the pools, testing water quality, re-planting and other important work in and around the pools that needs to be done," he said.
Community group Kapa Kaitiaki has monitored the condition of the track, the number of people frequenting the pools and sea conditions since mid-January.
Group members and local artists have painted pou and installed them and signs around Matapouri to create awareness and to educate people about rangitapu.
DoC operations' manager in Whangārei, Louisa Gritt, said her staff have had concerns about use of the Mermaid Pools and strongly discouraged their use.
"There was a natural accessway to the pools via a gap in the rocks that previously gave low tide access only, this accessway collapsed in 2010 and a 'desire line' made by visitors was unofficially established.
"DoC has never managed or promoted it and continues to discourage people from visiting the Mermaid Pools."
Gritt said DoC has been working with the hapū to support the rāhui, including updating the online webpage, additional signage, planting and ambassadors onsite over Easter.
Signs have been put in place advising local and overseas visitors about the rāhui.