Waipā residents woke up to a new year and a new entrance to a favourite spot, with the reopening of Maungatautari Reserve's Hicks Rd access on January 1.
The reopening brings access to the northern enclosure and the over-the-mountain track, previously accessible via only the southern entrance at 99 Tari Rd, Maungatautari.
Waipā District Council has been working with local iwi trusts and landowners to develop a new fenced track from Hicks Rd to Maungatautari reserve that would resolve issues that caused the access to be closed in 2018.
Waipā District Mayor Jim Mylchreest said the reopening of the track was cause for celebration.
"I am incredibly pleased to be able to announce the reopening of Hicks Rd access so more people can enjoy this ancient ngahere in the heart of our district. Maungatautari is home to so many native flora and fauna and is a very special place to visit so I would encourage those who can, to do so."
A spokesperson for the Ani Waata Whānau Trust said they were also pleased to have access restored for their whānau and the wider community.
"We have maintained our commitment to supporting Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and their work to eradicate pests on our tūpuna maunga throughout the process."
The Whānau trust is also developing an educational walk to the reserve through the nearby Mangeroa gully that council has supported.
Parking for the Hicks Rd access is now provided adjacent to Maungatautari Marae and track users will need to make a short walk to the end of Hicks Rd to the start of the track. Parking at the end of Hicks Rd is prohibited. Track users must stay on the fenced track.
Council is also well under way with planning for the installation of new public toilets, which will be adjacent to the marae to service track users. The facility will be built in the first half of this year.
Co-chairwoman of Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, Poto Davies, said she was pleased visitors can now experience all areas of the maunga.
"On behalf of Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, we are privileged to be able to share the mauri and mana of the maunga. The northern entry to Maungatautari has been closed to the public since 2018 and it is a great pleasure to have visitors enjoy all areas at the Sanctuary again. We are excited to showcase this section of the ngahere and look forward to welcoming the public to the northern enclosure."
Maungatautari (Maungatautari Ecological Island Reserve) is the largest ecological "island" on mainland New Zealand. It is a haven for native wildlife and plants such as kiwi, kōkako, tuatara and more, with a range of great walking and hiking tracks.
The maunga is surrounded by 47km of predator-proof fence enclosing 3400ha of Mt Maungatautari that keeps out mammalian predators so that native bird populations, trees and ferns are able to flourish uninhibited.
Visit the sanctuary mountain website at www.sanctuarymountain.co.nz.