Two walking tracks in bush near central Whangārei will be upgraded in a two-pronged attack to protect them from kauri dieback disease and improve the standard of the track.
A grant worth $125,000 from Ministry for Primary Industries will enable Whangārei District Council to complete the work in one go, rather than split over two financial years.
Council park and recreation technical officer Stuart Jackson said the grant will help fund the protection of a grove of kauri on tracks that cross Mackesy Bush, on the shoulders of Parihaka to the north of Riverside Dr.
"There are about 2.5 kilometres of tracks in this bush, and some go right through kauri groves and over exposed kauri roots."
"Kauri dieback disease is still being heavily researched but walkers with muddy footwear are thought to be a significant disease-spreader. These tracks are muddy and unsurfaced and we fear there is a real risk of the trees being exposed to the disease, so we want to change that.
"We believe the best protection would be to install new gravel surfaces and maybe some boardwalks along the tracks to prevent mud being dropped from footwear, and to direct surface water away from the vulnerable root areas."
Jackson said one of the tracks, which is around 503 metres long and runs through the middle of the largest, most significant and vulnerable kauri grove, will not be surfaced and use of it will be discouraged.
"The remaining two tracks will be upgraded to New Zealand's 'short walk' standard and diverted around kauri where possible."
Jackson said kauri dieback is not visually evident in Mackesy Bush but the council is desperate to do whatever it can to prevent disease transmission.
He said the council has already designed, tendered and awarded the $422,715 contract to Plantpro. The grant funding is included in this contract.
The design work will be carried out this month, with construction planned to start in March and be completed by the end of May. Closure of the track may be necessary during the work.
Jackson said the council had piggy-backed on the kauri dieback disease processes developed by the Department of Conservation in this area and the protocol they developed when working on their kauri-related walking tracks.
"Plantpro are joint partners of Northland Trackworks who have secured several contracts for walking track upgrades for DoC. The protocol is known and understood by our contractors and these were employed in similar work carried out on other walking tracks upgraded last year."
Jackson said the installation of a cleaning station is not part of this contract but will be something that is looked at once the work is complete.