Eli Orzessek finds the answers to your travel questions.
My husband and I are keen bushwalkers and we will be in Auckland over Labour Weekend. Normally we like to do some walking in the Waitakere Ranges as we stay with family out west, but as it's off limits at the moment, we want to think of some other options. Do you have any suggestions for some scenic day walks we could do?
Generally when you think hiking in Auckland, the Waitakere Ranges are one of the first places to come to mind. However, due to kauri dieback disease, the forested areas are closed under rahui — it's a pretty serious problem, and they probably should have been closed earlier. Some of the higher-risk tracks in the Hūnua Ranges have also been closed as a preventive measure.
However, it's a good opportunity to explore some of the other great walks Auckland has to offer — and hopefully Labour Weekend will bring some good weather to enjoy them with.
If that's the case, I'd recommend getting out on the water and exploring the Hauraki Gulf.
Waiheke Island has a great 100km network of walking tracks called Te Ara Hura. All the tracks are connected and you can start at any point and finish where you like — it's a great way to explore the island.
I also enjoy the walks on Rangitoto. The summit track is always good, but if you've done that one before, you could try the Coastal Track, which runs from Rangitoto Wharf to Islington Bay, passing old boatsheds, baches and ruins of World War II storage areas — it's great if you fancy a swim too.
Although I haven't been there myself, I've always been keen to check out Tiritiri Matangi Island — it looked pretty incredible on our contributing writer Elisabeth Easther's Islands of the Gulf show. There are walks from 20 minutes to three hours available and you're bound to see a variety of native birds, as well as views of the surrounding islands. There's also the option of taking a guided walk from the wharf to the visitor centre when you arrive by ferry — a good way to learn more about the island and the conservation work done there.
And of course, when you're visiting any areas of native forest, it's important to take steps to prevent the spread of pests and disease. Auckland Council recommends three easy steps: scrub any soil off your footwear and gear, spray your footwear and gear at every cleaning station you encounter and stay on designated open tracks.
Happy hiking! If any readers would like to suggest some favourite Auckland walks, feel free to send them in to me.
Before I got my last passport, I changed my gender/sex marker by statutory declaration. I was wondering if I would need to make another declaration before I get my next passport, or would the original one be good into the future?
I've contacted the Department of Internal Affairs for this one and a spokesperson told me that it does not require a further statutory declaration to be made when you renew your passport, as long as it includes the same biographical details. So you should be able to renew your passport with ease.