A road trip video of two guys having fun on Mt Manaia could have turned into a public relations nightmare for the Department of Conservation.

Last week, two young men who call themselves RoadRebelz posted the video, including drone footage, of their climb on the spectacular maunga at Whangārei Heads.

Along the way, the men took stunning footage showing Manaia and its surrounds in the best possible light.

But much to to the horror of the Department of Conservation, the video showed the men leaving the track, tramping through bush, scrambling up rock faces, climbing above the platform where the track ends to the very summit and posing on the steep, narrow precipice.


The video received around 70,000 hits on social media within hours of going online, and the Department of Conservation was concerned it would lead to copycat behaviour.

The visitors broke several rules, operations manager/senior ranger John Donaldson said.

Donaldson said people should not go beyond the viewing platform reached by a staircase at the top of the track. Nor should anyone leave the clearly marked track.

As well as safety issues in the rugged terrain, people leaving the track could trample sensitive areas and spread kauri dieback disease through soil movement, despite a footwear wash station at the track's start which everyone should have used.

The mountain was considered a sacred ancestor to local hapu and was therefore tapu, in particular its summit, or head.

That was the main reason the Department of Conservation worked with Ngatiwai some years ago to have the trig station which once stood there removed, Donaldson said.

''We don't think [RoadRebelz] were aware they did anything culturally insensitive. We've got a shortcoming there, that we have to advertise more widely that there is a cultural aspect. The need for pre-visit information is a thing the Department of Conservation recognises and we must do more.''

The area was also a drone no-go zone unless a Department of Conservation concession had been granted.


Department of Conservation staff contacted the road trippers to make their concerns known and received a polite and respectful response, Donaldson said.

''We weren't aware of the tapu [forbidden] areas and we're very sorry for disrespecting a sacred place,'' a statement from RoadRebelz said. "That was never our intention.

''We also didn't want to encourage everybody to do a dangerous hike, hence the notification in the video, but just to be sure we have changed the description to discourage people to climb to the very top.

''Our goal is just to inspire everybody to get out and enjoy such a beautiful and diverse country. We hope that we didn't get off the wrong foot.

"On the contrary, we would love to keep on showcasing all the amazing walks that are part of the Department of Conservation.''

The Department of Conservation was aware the hubbub would attract even more viewers but hoped the stronger safety messages since added to the video would prevent copy-cat acts.