Work is about to begin at Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura / Mt Albert on a range of enhancements and a return of the loop road to a vehicle-free space.
Construction includes a new visitor car park and toilet block beside the main entrance and an automated gate at the start of the loop road. The current car park on the western side of the maunga will be removed and reinstated to grass.
Work will commence on Monday 15 October and the entire project is expected to take approximately two months to complete.
Pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle access will continue during construction, with temporary closures to the loop road when cattle stops are being removed.
Once construction is complete, the loop road will permanently close to all private motor vehicles including motorbikes and scooters. The exception will be vehicle access for people who have limited mobility and cannot walk to the tihi (summit); they or their drivers can phone a dedicated number to obtain an access code for the gate.
The exact date of the closure will be determined as the construction work progresses and will be announced at least one week prior.
Site of cultural significance
Paul Majurey, Chair of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, says the change recognises that, as with the other maunga recently pedestrianised, Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura is a site of immense cultural and historical significance.
“Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura was a significant pā settlement, home to well over one thousand people at the height of occupation. Despite immense damage by quarrying, some important examples of early Māori life in Tāmaki Makaurau still exist there in the form of terraces, midden and pits shaped for dwellings, agriculture and defence,” says Majurey.
“To mana whenua, the tihi of a maunga holds great spiritual and cultural significance and has always been a place to be treated with respect and reverence. Honouring these values alongside creating an enhanced experience for pedestrians is at the heart of the vehicle access changes.”
Increasing safety for people walking the loop road was also a consideration. On Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura, pedestrians, cyclists and cars all share one narrow road, presenting health and safety risks for visitors.
The Tūpuna Maunga Authority announced in November 2016 that the tihi of Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura / Mt Albert, Pukewīwī / Puketāpapa / Mount Roskill, Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill, Takarunga / Mt Victoria and Maungarei / Mt Wellington would become pedestrian-only spaces. The changes were also signalled in the Tūpuna Maunga Integrated Management Plan which was publicly notified and the subject of a public submission and hearing process in 2016.
Success at other maunga
These latest changes follow the very successful pedestrianisation of Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill in May this year, Takarunga / Mt Victoria and Pukewīwī / Puketāpapa / Mt Roskill in March this year, and Maungawhau / Mt Eden in January 2016.
Majurey says the pedestrianisation of other maunga has been very successful.
“We have had consistent feedback that the maunga are vastly more peaceful and safer places to be without cars driving up and over them. People are really connecting with the preservation of these taonga.”
“As with all of the maunga, Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura remains a public space for all visitors to enjoy. These changes are about rethinking how we interact with the whenua and better protect it.”
More information about the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, including the Tūpuna Maunga Integrated Management Plan, can be found at maunga.nz.