Bob Harvey is wrong about the Hillary Trail

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Piha 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.

This all started because the Board is consulting locals about a visitor strategy for the Ranges.  The background paper sets out the need for a strategy as follows:

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.




  1. mike jenkin says:

    Thank you Greg your stewardship and energy is appreciated Mike Jenkin Swanson.

  2. Cassie says:

    It’s important to ensure that Future West are not so sandraconian!

  3. Sorry but Bob is out of date on so many issues…including kauri dieback. the Waitakere ranges, while there to enjoy, are also very fragile and susceptible to threats, visitors must be managed for the sake of future generations and biodiversity health, Sharon xo

  4. doris1944 says:

    Bob Harvey has been campaigning for some years to see commercial concessionaires on the Hillary Trail. His approach this time seems carefully timed to try and influence how people vote, though why he would attach himself to the private property rights’ ticket of Jonny Knox, Mark Brickell and Ken Turner is curious, for a Labour Party man?
    Recently, Bob has approached both the New Zealand Herald and Western Leader with his cause (Knox was described to me by a journalist, as Bob’s “partner”). To commercial concessions he has now added a demand for up-market accommodation in the park – according to Herald journalist Geoff Cumming.
    The policy for the Hillary Trail was set following a statutory process with hearings under the Reserves Act. The overwhelming number of submissions supported the Hillary Trail but opposed concessions, and upgrading the track to “easy walk” standard. Of course, such a hearing is not a numbers game, but the old ARC adopted a precautionary approach, this being the first such trail it had created. The subsequent identification of kauri PTA, is another reason to take a measured approach to the Trail.
    The purpose of the Hillary Trail was and is to provide a challenging over-night tramping experience for young people and families to keep alive that kiwi tradition. The policy allows commercial concessions for young people doing awards, such as the over 1000 young people who have done Duke of Edinburgh awards on the HT in the last couple of years.
    Of course there are commercial benefits to local people living in West Coast areas which the Trail goes through. These are the people providing camping and B&B accommodation and also people involved in developing and maintaining the Trail. There are also Council-owned lodges and baches along the Trail, as well as camp sites. The kind of commercial concessions Bob wants would likely see big tourism players involved and the money leave the area. Already the Council has had to deal with one such out-of-Auckland tourism operator who attempted to trademark the Hillary Trail name and buy up all the Domain names.
    It is important to know that the Trail is still under development. The final leg is too long. Some tracks are in poor condition. I recently met with Auckland Transport to try and get it to decrease the traffic speed on a section of Piha Road road along which HT walkers go. A new section of track at Anawhata takes walkers off the road. The official Hillary Trail Facebook page (the one with the Auckland Council logo) provides feedback on improvements users suggest for the Trail.
    What’s marvellous about the trail is the way it has captured the public imagination, for which we can thank the Hillary name. People are creating personalised versions of the Trail, by running it, by doing it over a series of weekends, by day walks, and so on. It really is “the People’s Trail”, paid for by the public of Auckland, and embraced by them as their own challenge and achievement.

    Sandra Coney

  5. Understated says:

    Thank you Greg, and Sandra. I have lived in the Waitakeres, Piha for some 20 years, and I completely agree with your sentiments. I will be voting for both of you.

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