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Source: Department of Conservation

Date:  15 November 2023

A section of the Hauraki-Coromandel’s Opoutere Beach Recreation Reserve will be temporarily closed for the felling of more than 350 pine trees.

The pine trees are up to 30 metres tall and are mostly wilding pines that have spread from trees originally planted as windbreaks.

The death and decay of the trees has created a hazard to people walking through the reserve, through falling branches, as well as contributing to the fire risk at the site.

DOC’s Hauraki Operations Manager Avi Holzapfel says the condition of the trees stems from a deliberate and unpermitted poisoning incident.

The closure of the reserve will commence on 20 November, with the felling project estimated to take three weeks.

While the work is being undertaken, part of the reserve will be closed to the public. This will include the currently closed area at the southern end of the reserve, the main DOC track to the beach, and the northern side of the main track where some pines also need to be felled.

It is anticipated at this stage the track closure will be in place for 10 working days. The track may be reopened earlier if it is safe to do so.

“The track and reserve closure may inconvenience visitors, and we apologise for that – but it is essential we get this work done,” he says.

DOC continues to urge people to exercise caution when entering the reserve and to check for overhead hazards. The felling work will reduce the risk of harm to the public from falling dead or dying trees.

“We’ve had concerns about the health and safety risk posed by these trees, and now we’ve obtained the support, the funding and the plan for safe and efficient felling,” he says.

Avi says obtaining support from local iwi was particularly vital, as the reserve includes areas considered culturally and historically significant – including urupa/burial sites.

A special Heritage New Zealand authority has been obtained to allow for the pine felling work, which will be carried out by experienced specialist contractors.

The Heritage NZ Authority, combined with restricted access to the site, means the pine trees will felled, and left in situ to decompose.

Avi says DOC has consistently warned of the fire risk in the reserve, where there is a fire ban and fires, barbecue and fireworks should not be used.

DOC supports FENZ’s advice which urges all residents and households in Opoutere to have a fire escape plan.

Opoutere is a small settlement, between Pauanui and Whangamata, built around Wharekawa Harbour, on Coromandel’s eastern coastline.

It has about 60 year-round/permanent residents and is a popular area for visitors and holidaymakers in summer.