The Department of Conservation last week announced the permanent closure of 10 "high-risk" walking tracks in the Bay of Islands in a bid to prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease.

Eight of them are in the Puketi and Omahuta forests, midway between the Bay of Islands and the Hokianga, together forming one of the largest tracts of native bush in Northland and one of the largest surviving kauri forests in the country.

Kauri dieback disease has been confirmed in Omahuta but not yet in Puketi, although several suspected cases are being tested.

The other closures are in Russell-Ngaiotonga Forest, on the east coast south of Russell.


DoC's acting Bay of Islands operations manager, Martin Akroyd, appealed to Northlanders to heed the track bans.

"We urge the public to respect the closures and no longer access these tracks, otherwise they'll be putting our kauri at great risk," he said, adding that Treaty partners had been consulted before the decision was made.

The closed tracks are:

Puketi Forest: Mangahorehore, Onekura, Pukekohe Stream, Upper Waipapa River, Walnut, Waihoanga Gorge Kauri Walk, and Takapau.

Omahuta Forest: Omahuta Kauri Sanctuary Walk.

Russell-Ngaiotonga Forest: Kauri Grove Walk and Twin Bole Kauri Walk.

Puketi Forest is also the focus of an ambitious, volunteer-run restoration project launched in 2003 to eradicate introduced pests from 5500ha of rugged bush.

The group has also reintroduced locally extinct species such as toutouwai (the North Island robin) and kōkako.


The good news was that several other tracks through Omahuta and Puketi forests were scheduled to reopen later this year after a major upgrade designed to stop walkers spreading the pathogen. It is understood that the upgrades, including on the Pukatea Ridge Track, the Lower Waipapa River Track and a section of Te Araroa, the trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff, are completed but boot-cleaning stations have yet to be installed.

Meanwhile Waipoua Forest's Tāne Mahuta is so far free of kauri dieback, but the pathogen was found just 60m away late last year.