Piha residents are up in arms over plans by Auckland Council to "sanitise" the Waitākere Ranges for tourists by building two bridges near the popular Kitekite Falls.

Piha resident Kim Snel says the planned "selfie bridges" at the falls have not been discussed with locals who are already feeling the pain of not being able to walk and tramp into the bush where kauri dieback disease has closed many tracks.

Her partner, James Dickinson, said the pair were not opposed to the bridge but wanted it to go through consultation to give everyone the chance to have a say.

"We think there are other priorities for gaining access into the bush," said Dickinson, a keen tramper who has walked all of the 170-odd tracks in the Waitākere Ranges.

Advertisement

He accused the council of "sanitising" the forest for tourists on the popular Kitekite track when the priority should be re-opening tracks for locals and New Zealanders. About 140 tracks remain closed, he said.

The Kitekite Track near Piha, where one of two new bridges is being planned after complaints from the public that it was too inaccessible. Photo / Michael Craig
The Kitekite Track near Piha, where one of two new bridges is being planned after complaints from the public that it was too inaccessible. Photo / Michael Craig

Waitākere Ranges Local Board member Sandra Coney has been seeking information about the two bridges over the stream below the falls after receiving emails and other communication from concerned Piha residents.

Manager of regional parks Rachel Kelleher said the bridges were in the planning phase, and $180,000 had been set aside for them. The funding was completely separate from the targeted rate, which paid for kauri dieback management, she said.

The bridges were planned at two river crossings that required visitors to "rock hop" or wade through the water, unlike other stream crossings on the track, which were bridged.

Correspondence between the council and Coney showed that visitors had complained about the difficulty in crossing the streams, especially for less mobile visitors.

"The reason for investigating these bridges is to provide a consistent visitor experience, appropriate health and safety standards and a track that is fit for purpose for all visitors," Kelleher said.

The council would not be seeking public input because it was an operational matter and "not one the council would typically consult on", she said.

But it would get input on the ecological, historical and cultural aspects of the bridges.

Advertisement

The two bridges were planned for the Kitekite and Knutzen tracks. The council said the easy access and popularity of the Kitekite Track meant visitor numbers had grown to 220,000 a year, and about 22,000 a month over summer.