Thousands of people are snubbing an iwi-imposed rahui over Auckland's Waitakere Ranges - even after being approached in the park and told about it.

Results from an on-site survey, provided to the Herald, showed just a small number of those visitors approached chose to leave when told about the rahui.

Te Kawerau a Maki imposed the unofficial ban over the 16,000ha park last month.

It was a last resort against kauri dieback disease which, in just five years, had spread from 8 per cent to 19 per cent of the park's kauri, with infection rates concentrated around where people walk.


Last week, former Auckland Council biosecurity manager Jack Craw told TV3's The AM Show how kauri in the ranges could be wiped out within three decades unless drastic action was taken.

Forest and Bird, one of several environment groups backing the rahui, has now accused Auckland Council of confusing people by not shutting the entire park.

While the rahui appeared to have discouraged many visitors in the days after it was declared in early December, the findings of surveys undertaken since suggested that was no longer the case.

Although figures hadn't been collated, vehicle counts outside the park indicated a high number of visitors this summer.

Of more than 1100 people approached by one council-employed kauri dieback ambassador in the week before Christmas, only a dozen chose to turn back because of the rahui.

Others approached this month voiced confusion over the park being open or closed, with one woman noting a sign at the entrance advising people of the rahui.

Another couple were reported as saying they knew about the rahui, but argued it was "up to the council" to close the ranges.

"We are Europeans, so we will listen and respect the final word of those who have the power to shut or leave the tracks open."


Councillors last month considered a park-wide closure among five options, but voted to undertake targeted closures of affected tracks and areas.

The iwi's executive manager, Edward Ashby, acknowledged there were no statutory powers to enforce the rahui, but was nonetheless saddened many visitors were ignoring it.

The reasons ranged from a lack of awareness and confusion to people not taking the threat seriously and not respecting iwi, he said.

"We always knew that, without everyone else's buy-in that this was going to happen, but we had to make a stand."

He added there were still a large number of people observing the rahui, and choosing to go to the beach instead.

Forest and Bird's kauri dieback spokeswoman Dr Rebecca Stirnemann said closing some tracks and not others was confusing, and meant "hundreds of people are still visiting the area every day and putting the future of our great kauri forests at risk".

"As predicted, by not completely closing the Waitakeres, Auckland Council are sending mixed messages about how severe kauri dieback is in the ranges, and the terrible problem of humans spreading it."

Forest and Bird and other groups have called on the Government to enact a Controlled Area Notice, making it an offence to move soil, whether on shoes, equipment or vehicles.

"If we want Kauri trees around for future generations to enjoy we need every tool available to combat the spread of this terrible disease."

Forty-four high and medium-risk tracks were currently closed within the park, while a number of track surfaces had been or were in the process of being upgraded.

A team of 12 kauri dieback ambassadors had also been approaching visitors in the park to raise awareness about the disease and the importance of using cleaning stations and cleaning shoes properly.

More ambassadors were working at other sites, such as the Hunua Ranges and at the ferry terminals servicing Waiheke and Great Barrier.

"We have found that the rahui has generally raised the profile of this issue, as well as the importance of using cleaning stations and keeping off closed tracks," council biosecurity manager Phil Brown said.

"It has also been great to see locals out doing their part to spread the message, and respecting the rahui."

Stephen Bell, the council's western principal ranger, acknowledged the council had "struggled a little" at communicating to people the council's position and that of the iwi.

"What we try to do is inform people that Te Kawerau a Maki have imposed a rahui on the ranges and what the rahui means, and then we also tell people that council has decided not to close the ranges in its entirety, but have closed a number of tracks within the park," he said.

"And the decision as to whether to come to the ranges and walk in it or not is a conscious decision they have to make."

While it was confident the measures it was taking were helping kauri, the council was also encouraging people to consider alternative options to the park.