The high cliffs in west Auckland's Waitakere ranges are the setting for the tragic tale of Te Ahua o Hinerangi, a broken hearted Māori daughter who fell to her death.

However, it seems her warning has been lost on the hundreds of people who are risking their lives to take a photo at the site, 60 metres above Mercer Bay.

The narrow outcrop of rock, dangerously undercut and overhanging the sheer cliffs below has become the focus of a social media trend.

People are leaping the safety rails to pose on the cliff edge.

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The cliffs round Mercer Bay are some of Auckland's tallest. Photo / Supplied
The cliffs round Mercer Bay are some of Auckland's tallest. Photo / Supplied

This past weekend there were at least 12 images posted by tourists to the social media site Instagram.com showing people sitting or standing on the rock.

Looking at the over 5300 photos 'geo-tagged' to the location on the Mercer Loop Track, many show tourists posing, dangerously beyond the safety rails.

Over the past two decades Mercer bay has seen a number of tragedies and walkers have disappeared on the trail.


In 2006, Australian tourist Fiona Hamilton, 43, fell to her death while posing in a photo for her partner.

Photographers are risking life and limb to take a picture over the Mercer Bay cliffs. Photo / Supplied
Photographers are risking life and limb to take a picture over the Mercer Bay cliffs. Photo / Supplied

However there has been an increased interest that has appeared in web search results and the search shows that the track has been gaining interest.

The Mercer Bay loop has gained popularity since much of the Waitakere ranges have been closed off to stop the spread of Kauri dieback disease.

However the practice of "geo-tagging" - leaving GPS or traceable details - on social media such as Instagram has been leading tourists to the spot.

Many worry that the easily discoverable photos will lead to more reckless behaviour.

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It's not uncommon to see people hop the railing to pose for the snap on a clear day.

Over the weekend TV presenter David Farrier shared post to twitter of a daredevil couple, with the caption "did not like watching this."

Leave No Trace New Zealand has been campaigning for tourists to avoid leaving traceable details on public social media posts.

"To tag or not to tag is an important consideration" says Oswalt, who is an advocate for the power of social media's ability to do good for the outdoors as well as harm.

The practice of geo-tagging - the publishing of GPS coordinates with pictures online - has become a surprisingly controversial one.

It has led to certain locations in New Zealand and around the world being bogged down by visitors as well as dangerous 'copy cat' photos.

"It's always disappointing to see people put their wellbeing at risk" said Auckland Council's Regional Parks Manager Rachel Kelleher, whose department cares for tracks.

"We strongly urge people to stay in the viewing areas and platforms established, and stay behind all protective barriers wherever they are provided."

Kelleher said the "beautiful walking track" provides visitors with "opportunity to admire and take photos of the spectacular scenery from a safe viewing platform."

The Mercer Bay Loop attracts between 30,000 and 35,000 visitors a year.