Auckland Council has released its latest report into kauri dieback, which found the number of trees with the devastating disease more than doubled in five years.
Several of the most popular tracks were closed in 2015 to try to prevent kauri dieback spreading on people’s shoes.
But the report said that was not working and has called for an independent review to look at the merits and practicalities of banning the public from the entire regional park.
The report’s authors said the recommendation was not an easy one to make, but that it may not be possible to prevent the spread of kauri dieback without it.
The report showed the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park was now the most infected in the country. Almost one in five trees was infected – up from one in 12 in 2011 – and another 4.5% have been classified as “possibly infected”.
Of the distinct stands of forest with in the park, 58% have some infected trees within them.
The Waitākere Ranges regional park takes up 16,000ha of Auckland’s west coast, runs alongside popular beaches like Piha and is a hugely popular visiting place.
The report also recommended upgrading the disinfected stations on popular walking tracks, which required people to scrub their shoes, increasing the monitoring of them and assessing the role of wild pigs in the spread of the disease.
An environmental group wants people immediately banned from the entire regional park to stop the spread.
Tree Council spokesperson Mels Barton said the council must take urgent action.
“The infection has got to such a point, and we are spreading it so fast, that if we don’t do that, we will lose kauri, extinctions will happen within five years. So we have to take drastic action now.”
Dr Barton said the closures would not have to be for a long time, just enough for the council to put in protection measures, like better walkways and cleaning stations.