Cars could be banned on the mountain before Christmas.
Work begins next Monday to turn the top of Owairaka/Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura into a car-free zone and the plan is to introduce a new visitor car park and toilet block beside the main entrance, with an automated gate at the start of the loop road. The present car park on the western side of the football field will be grassed.
When the project is over, the road will be permanently closed to all private motor vehicles including motorbikes and scooters. The exception will be for people who have limited mobility and cannot walk to the tihi (summit); they or their drivers can phone a dedicated number to obtain an access code for the gate.
The work will take about two months to complete and the loop road will stay open to walkers, cyclists and vehicles during construction, with temporary closures when cattle stops are being removed.
The steps to ban cars follow similar moves at Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill in May this year, Takarunga/Mt Victoria and Pukewīwī/Puketāpapa/Mt Roskill in March this year, and Maungawhau/Mt Eden in January 2016.
Paul Majurey, chair of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, says the change recognises that Ōwairaka/Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura is a site of immense cultural and historical significance.
“Ōwairaka/Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura was a significant pā settlement, home to well over 1000 people at the height of occupation,” he says. “Despite immense damage by quarrying, some important examples of early Māori life in Tāmaki Makaurau still exist there in the form of terraces, midden and pits shaped for dwellings, agriculture and defence.
“To Mana Whenua, the tihi of a maunga holds great spiritual and cultural significance and has always been a place to be treated with respect and reverence. Honouring these values alongside creating an enhanced experience for pedestrians is at the heart of the vehicle access changes.”
Making the loop road safer for walkers was also a consideration because pedestrians, cyclists and cars all share one narrow path..
Mr Majurey says the authority has had consistent feedback that the maunga are “vastly more peaceful and safer places to be without cars driving up and over them. People are really connecting with the preservation of these taonga.”
- More information about the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, including the Tūpuna Maunga Integrated Management Plan, click here