A year after closing 27km of walking tracks in the Waitakere Ranges in a bid to halt the spread of a disease that kills kauri trees, Auckland Council is being defied by hundreds of bush trail users and challenged to prove the drastic measure is working.
However, despite acknowledging people are ignoring signs and barriers for track closures in Waitakere's populated areas, the council said "kauri protection" zones in the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges would remain until research results were available in November.
Prominent west coast bush runners Sarah Hillary, Sean Gribben and Shaun Collins said their groups supported moves to stop the spread of kauri dieback disease and had strictly kept to the closures imposed in July last year.
However, the 15 closures were to have been reviewed after a year and as a group affected by them they wanted evidence to support the closures as a successful measure.
Mr Gribben is in an informal group of 180 bush runners who have switched to alternative routes but feel it limits their runs and forces them on to sections of roads.
Between 20 and 30 people turn up for a weekend or weekday run.
"We live and breathe Waitakere tracks and they are a huge part of our lives because we run them three times a week.
"But if there is no evidence, why should we not be using closed ones?
"We ask what is the current situation, because they said it would be reviewed, and what is the evidence that the disease is affected by track closure?"
Sarah Hillary, daughter of mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary after whom the 70km Hillary Track is named, runs with Mr Gribben's group as well as the Girls on Top group.
She said her groups strictly kept the rules.
"They love the bush and the last thing they want is to damage the bush ... We want to respect what they [council] are doing and we want to see results of it.
"But if they don't come back to you and give you feedback, then people are going to get annoyed about it and more individuals will break the rules and that would be a shame."
Western regional parks principal ranger Stephen Bell said he was disappointed at the number of people who were continuing to use tracksin more accessible areas of Waitakere.
He also noted "very sporadic compliance" with the cleaning stations installed across the ranges for people to disinfect soil on their boots that might hold the disease.
A number of closure signs and maps were damaged or removed.
He said the reason for track closures was to protect kauri stands that were not showing symptoms of the disease while allowing continuing use of the rest of the ranges.