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Fears for future of Waikaremoana

A family with a history of holidaying at Lake Waikaremoana dating back more than 100 years say new management are “destroying the place”.

A significant section of the lake’s Great Walk has been closed, two water taxi services have stopped over the last year and there is concern over an increase in pests and a decrease in rubbish collection.

The whole situation is slowly imploding, says a member of the family who have been going to the lake for generations.

The lake-goer, who did not want to be named, was concerned at allegations of racism she felt could come out of the complaints.

It had nothing to do with race, she said.

“I absolutely love the place and love the people. There is an incredible problem going on up there and they are destroying the most amazing place.”

Te Urewera has replaced the name Te Urewera National Park, which incorporates Lake Waikaremoana.

It was made a legal entity with the Te Urewera Act 2014.

Since then the Crown’s role in governance has decreased.

The responsibility of Te Urewera is in the hands of a nine-strong board — six from Ngai Tuhoe and three from the Crown.

All questions sent by The Gisborne Herald to the Department of Conservation (DoC) were referred to Ngai Tuhoe.

Ngai Tuhoe would not answer any questions about the day-to-day running of Te Urewera.

Instead an interview with Te Urewera board chairman Tamati Kruger was granted to share their vision for the area.

The 44-kilometre Great Walk has been reduced by 18.3km, with huts within that section only accessible by water taxi.

There used to be two water taxi companies operating — David Dods and Big Bush. These services are no longer in commercial operation or operating at Lake Waikaremoana.

What next? No boats? No free camping?Maritime New Zealand senior communications and publications adviser Stephanie Morison said there was now one different water taxi operator — Tuhoe Trust Custodian Trustee Company Limited.

A Gisborne family who walked the track over Christmas said parts of the Great Walk that were open were worse than some parts that had been closed.

Because they had walked the track many times, they carried on through the closed bits and knew it would not matter if they got their feet “a bit wet”.

One section of the track was closed because a bridge had been “compromised”.

The bridge was snapped in the middle but it was only over a little bit of water. It was “nothing major” and was easy to walk around.

Another person spoken to — a bach owner of almost 20 years at the lake — held serious concerns for the care of Te Urewera and the lake.

She also wanted to stay anonymous out of fear of being seen as racist.

“Many of us feel that next it will be no boats allowed, then no free camping, and people will be muscled out, with politicians saying, ‘isn’t it lovely Tuhoe have their land back?’

“I feel quite strongly that I would like to help look after Te Urewera as a friend.”

Before Christmas the rubbish site at Mokau, where campers regularly dropped off their rubbish for collection, was still open but filled to the brim with black bags and recycling.

“The bins were overflowing before the holiday season had even started.”

After Christmas it was closed with no notice given, said the bach owner.

Rubbish began piling up.

She felt there was an agenda to make the tourists look bad, with “emotional photos” of rubbish bags left behind.

“Even before the change in management, there was a decline in maintenance and upkeep of the track and upkeep of facilities by DoC.

“Since the change it has become more marked.

“In the last 10 years I have seen a decline, first by DoC and now the current management system.”

Members of Te Urewera board are Dave Bamford, Marewa Titoko, Dr John Wood, Jo Breese, the Rt Hon Jim Bolger, Te Tokawhakaea Temara, Tamati Kruger, Lance Rurehe and Maynard Apiata.

Lake Waikaremoana.