I consider myself extremely fortunate in having tramped the Ranges over many years. This has been a wonderful and unforgettable experience and a significant part of my life.

As a child I walked the Ranges with my parents. Then the Ranges were still in recovery mode. Logging and early pioneering days had taken its toll. There were many of the large kauri and rimu we see today. Somehow they had managed to escape the saws and axes. Much of the land surrounding these trees was open with scrub and weeds and the bush just managing to make some headway. Manuka, punga and other small ferns are a memory.

Around 20 years ago I joined 2 tramping groups, one being ATC. I was blown away by the change in the 30 year period since my youth. The regeneration was amazing. Healthy, lush and pristine are words that come to mind. The earlier areas of open scrub gone and the sky line filled in with towering branches. Many different species were also a feature. The fresh air was invigorating. Auckland’s varying weather made the bush look different every time I went out. The wet and muddy areas encountered in winter and the old broken steps I negotiated were all part of a great day out. Many times I arrived home with wet and mud caked boots. These were cleaned immediately with a smile on my face, then a shower and a cup of tea.

Over time I observed more and more work being carried out on the tracks. Gravel paths, boardwalks, drainage and lots of steps started to appear. Were these improvements?  Somehow tramping felt not quite the same.

Dieback was starting to be talked about.

In 2009 dieback hit the headlines and meetings and educational lectures started in earnest. Initially I went to a number of these but gave them away after becoming disillusioned about the lack of scientific evidence being presented. Also there were hecklers whose only aim was to interject and disrupt. These were groups who wanted and still want the Ranges closed to everyone. 

By 2012 it was decided to close a number of tracks. Gradually hygiene stations were introduced at many of the others and spraying became a part of tramping. At times I felt concern over the future of the Ranges and where this was all heading. I felt nostalgic for Robinson Ridge and Lucy Cranwell, two tracks, both with magnificent stands of kauri now closed. The upgrade work intensified. Generally the bush looked healthy with new growth very noticeable everywhere. Flowering species were in greater abundance and there was an increase in fungi numbers. Mostly it was hard to believe a problem existed. The earlier numbers of dying kauri seem to have abated. 

Then last year the dieback situation ramped up as information was published, that there had apparently been a massive increase in the disease during the last 5 years. December 2017 saw the closure of the majority of the track system leaving just a handful of tramping routes open. Now the most recent announcement has seen all the forested area closed and just a few coastal walkways open.

Sadly, any future visits to my much loved Waitakere Ranges will be a very different experience.    

Linda Webber

April 2018