Bob Harvey is wrong about the Hillary Trail
By Greg Presland
I have known Bob Harvey for a while and even served a term as a Waitakere City Councillor when he was the Mayor. He is the father of Waitakere’s eco city concept and during his time as Mayor achieved a great amount of good.
We have not always seen eye to eye. I thought that his support for the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act was not as staunch as it could be and the legislation took longer than it should have to pass. And his recent comments about the Waitakere Ranges Local Board wanting to close down the Hillary Trail have left me somewhat perplexed.
Nothing of the sort is planned. But Bob sees a conspiracy because the Local Board wants to establish a strategy for managing visitors.
There is a need to provide a wider management framework for visitors and recreation in the Heritage Area, integrating the management of the Regional Park with the Local Park network, the roading network and privately owned areas. The framework should seek to provide a quality experience for visitors to the Heritage Area, while protecting heritage features and at the same time recognising the role visitors can play in the social and economic wellbeing of the communities in the Ranges.
As can be seen from this passage there are three desires, provide a quality experience, protect the heritage features and recognise that visitors can play a role in the economic and social wellbeing of the communities of the Ranges.
To my view consulting on the strategy is totally appropriate. Stewardship of the Ranges has to allow for their enjoyment both socially and economically but in a way which does not damage the special features of the area. This is axiomatic. If you want to use the beauty of the area to attract visitors then you have to make sure that the area retains its beauty.
Bob seems to think that this poses a risk to the Hillary Trail. He has claimed that the proposed consultation is a sham and an attempt to lock the ranges up. He is wrong. The only areas where there is an appetite to restrict access are those where there is a demonstrably justifiable reason to do so. Areas with Kauri Dieback and clean areas which can provide for the preservation of Kauri are examples.
Besides the document has no statutory power. It is an attempt to collate valuable information on what is happening and what can be done to ensure that the Ranges are not damaged.
If Bob really wants to change the rules that apply then he would be well advised to make a submission on the Unitary Plan and on the Auckland Regional Park Management Plan. Plan change 36 which came into force recently allows for all sorts of activities. For instance operating a homestay with no more than 10 persons present per night is a permitted activity. Bob ought to know about this. He was mayor of Waitakere City at the time that the plan change was being formulated. The Unitary Plan is in the process of being formulated but I have been assured that any recent plan changes, which would include plan change 36 will be incorporated without change.
I am not anti business. Given that I am the owner of a reasonably sized law firm and that each day I give advice to people about how to run their business properly this claim is frankly ludicrous.
I am more than happy for Aucklanders to enjoy the wonders that are the Waitakere Ranges and the West Coast Beaches. I am happy that local clusters of businesses such as bed sits are developing and thriving because of the Hillary Trail. All that I ask is that the threat to the local environment is assessed and if there is a threat then protective measures are investigated.
Wanting to make sure the Ranges Environment is not being damaged is not an extremist position. I am sure that most if not all locals living in the Waitakere Ranges heritage area would agree.