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Trip Report – Muritai Park Track – Mackenzie Track

Trip Report – 15 February 2014 :   Muritai Park Track – Mackenzie Track

We had planned to climb the Muritai Track to the ridge, then descend through George and Kena Gibbs’s contiguous QEII covenant.   However, it soon became obvious that the botanising the Muritai Track itself would occupy us all morning, leaving no time to do justice to the covenant so we had to postpone the covenant trip, and descend the Mackenzie Track.

Arthropodium candidum
Arthropodium candidum.   Photo: Jeremy Rolfe.
As we started the track, large old titoki, karaka, and a tall, probably-planted whau, overhung the steep, barren slopes, while underneath was a varied community of commonly-occurring native Wellington ferns, sedges and herbaceous plants.   Among them, were occasional tufts of the dainty Arthropodium candidum, small renga lily, in flower.   Nearby were two huge, overhanging holly trees (d.b.h. c. 0.4 m) which we GPSd and advised Greater Wellington Regional Council of the threat they pose to the ecological integrity of East Harbour Regional Park.

Muritai Track offers a very wide range of plant communities with a wealth of trackside botanical interest.   We climbed steadily, enjoying lush tangles of kiekie in the gullies, and further up, the opportunity to study Libertia edgariae in flower, close at hand in sunlit patches, this park being a stronghold for the species.   Also prominent here were the bright pink flowers of the insectivorous native sundew, Drosera auriculata, wahu.   An unexpected highlight was a 6-m Nestegis montana, narrow-leaved maire, spotted c. 10 m below the track by an observant pair of eyes.   Both black maire and white maire were also present.   Dry spur-crests with black beech and hard beech, over a typical shrub understorey of Leptecophylla juniperina / prickly mingimingi, and Leucopogon fasciculatus / big mingimingi, and coprosma species, offered us yet another type of plant community to botanise.   On the Mackenzie Track, Pat Enright made the find of the day, the Nationally Critical Rorippa divaricata.

The twelve native orchid species that had been flowering on and beside the track in November were in evidence only by their dead culms topped with dry, seed-filled capsules, but their presence served to under-score the risk of this orchid population being destroyed if the track were to be upgraded.

Local environmental groups have been active in opposition to GWRC’s proposal to de-commission the Muritai Track – a good, tramping-standard track, and construct a new track on a new alignment, like the recently built, “manicured” MacKenzie Track.   So many people, local and otherwise, objected to this plan, that GWRC have had to reconsider.   Here are some of the objections raised in their submissions – note that MT stands for Muritai Track:
•   WRC is mistaken in thinking that people find the MT difficult.   People like the existing, natural surface, the shelter provided by the tree canopy, and the closeness of the native vegetation.
•   The park already has enough tracks.
•   There is no evidence, e.g., statistics, to justify the proposed upgrade.
•   National Track Standards are not appropriate for this area.
•   Tracks like the recently upgraded Mackenzie Track are exposed, weedy, slippery because of loose gravel, and destructive of regenerating bush.
•   They lack biodiversity, which conflicts with GWRC policy.
•   MT has a special, holistic culture which, in addition to the journey itself, includes native snails, orchids, ground ferns, tree-ferns, glow-worms, centipedes, … all of which need protecting.
•   The proposed, new MT’s greater width would open up a greater area for weeds to colonise, and volunteers are already stretched by trying to deal with existing weeds.

These and many other objections were raised in 113 letters and e-mails received, most of them in opposition.   It is clear that the MT represents much more than just a route to get from A to B – it is a treasured, holistic experience of nature, in nature.

WRC has resolved to keep the MT for short to medium term only, and the proposal will be included in the Long-Term Plan for people to comment.

Participants :   Bev Abbott, Biddy Bunzl, Pat Enright, James Fraser, Bryan Halliday, Chris Hopkins, Chris Horne, (co-leader), Rodney Lewington, Barbara Mitcalfe, (co-leader / scribe), Alan Monroe, Mick Parsons, Leon Perrie, Lara Shepherd, Darea Sherratt, Roy Slack, Julia Wilson-Davey.


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