25.02.10 21:23 Age: 8 yrs

Kit Howden: Challenges for Maungawhau and the Heritage Parks of Auckland

By: Kit Howden

Maungawhau, Mt Eden stands at cross roads and a symbol of the lack of care of our heritage public parks and volcanic cones. We have over the years made so many good arguments and still no changes.

I attended a strategic planning session yesterday on the Volcanic Landscape of Auckland. This was attended by a multitude of planners, policy analysts and consultants and a few community volunteers like myself. The documents presented has wonderful words but many point to more plans, consultants etc. I have seen similar words and plans going back over a decade and still little action. Many citizens and organisations like Friends of Maungawhau and Volcanic Cones Society have made good suggestions over the years and still no action. It is not only little available funding. The weight of these top end plans, public officials, consultants and their costs shows the dysfunction of the government in relation to the delivery of park services on the ground.

The traffic to the summit of Maungawhau and commercial coaches that still operate [after a decade of trying to get changes] indicates the commercial exploitation of a public place. They make no contribution to the care of the Maunga. Facilities like the walking tracks continue to be poorly planned and managed considering the high use.

We have over the years made so many good arguments and still no changes.

On the other hand a positive move has been in getting the cattle removed. However the unprofessional system of Council has seen no real action on such measures like a professional fire plan and dealing with this International Year of Biodiversity. Also uncontrolled use continues and I receive more complaints about the ineffective Auckland City Council.

The year has started with a few shrubs we planted last year being cut by contractors. We carry on doing what we know as best for the land with no guidance because we are told we know more than Council experts and their consultants. Our activities include – weeding to release habitat for native species – forming erosion control habitat piles of the vegetation we cut; - identifying and planting a few species to enrich the biodiversity and that stand the hash volcanic environment. However, as volunteers there is only so much we can do. Greater leadership is needed. That is why we advocate for a professional park ranger service. Such a service in needed to supervise contractor volunteers and work with the community. Unfortunately this will not be included in the new legislation because it looks as though all park operations may be contracted out under a multitude of non-transparent contracts.

On the other hand there are good officers such as the Volunteer Coordinator who has been of great assistance considering he is spread over the whole City. He and our supportive community board [ and that's another issue - I hope we get good community boards under the new city – however there is concern over this] have been helpful and very supportive.

Submissions have been made to the legislation forming the new Auckland City and while we have been received well I doubt that changes will be made. Heritage parks will be seen more as “cash cows” for the private sector under the priority given to economic development as the only purpose in the new city we live in. There have to be other directions.

There are positive directions – Iwi under the new co management arrangement may lead to better arrangements and attention to the Maunga. Their mana and spiritual connection will bring more respect. We have received a good reply from the Office of Treaty Settlement and they will keep us informed of the final deed of settlement.

Ngati Whatua need more support as they have been active guardians over the years.

Over the last few months I have received comments from people ready to take direct action – like us they get no replies and little action from the Council. Such action needs to be carefully done and considered so we can continue to protect the freedom of access and protection of the Maunga. Your input and action is needed. Maungawhau stands as an example of what may happen to many of our heritage conservation parks unless citizens get more involved.

Kit Howden
Chairman Friends of Maungawhau
26 Feb 2010

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