June 22, 2015

Theft, misuse mean we may lose the Waitawheta track, warns NZFWDA

Gates at both entrances to the Waitawheta/Taieri Road track across DoC land southwest of Waihi have been stolen, allowing 4WDs in to cause "major damage". Worse, the New Zealand Four Wheel Drive Association has "clear evidence" that the 4WDs are enthusiast vehicles, says Tony Burgess, the northern zone's public relations officer. He warns that there's a high possibility that the track will be closed permanently and lost to clubs and others. 

"The problem is that silt from the track is ending up in waterways that supply water to housing downstream and farmers have spent massive amounts of money planting the river banks, only to see the streams damaged by silt from 4WD tracks," explained Mr Burgess. "This has caused multiple complaints to Waikato Regional Council." The council issued an abatement notice to DoC, requiring it to prevent "all and any access" by vehicles.

The NZFWDA, DoC and the regional council have been working to have the track reopened, but Mr Burgess says the process is in serious jeopardy, as DoC "will now need to put even more effort into preventing vehicles accessing the area. A lot of the progress we had made has been undone because the damage will need to be repaired before there is any possibility of the track reopening, and that will cost a lot of money."

Culverts that were intended to be part of the repairs have also been stolen. These were 6m long and heavy; the gates that were stolen were of 150mm heavy wall pipe. "Someone put considerable effort into removing the gates and culverts," said Mr Burgess. "It was not a five minute job and most likely involved several people." 

The association says it's vital that no vehicles use the track until a clear legal agreement is in place. Mr Burgess adds: "I would love to have someone admit responsibility for the theft and willful damage and take responsibility for doing what they can to undo the damage. If you know anything at all about this and want to be do something responsible to protect our recreation and to be able to continue to use your 4x4 off road, let us know what you know about this."

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