Covid-19: Tūhoe bans hunting and camping for alert level 3 at Te Urewera
20 April 2020
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Hunting or camping in Te Urewera will not be allowed at Covid-19 alert level 3, Tūhoe says.
Hunters have been calling for the government to allow the activity under level 3, saying it is food gathering for many people at this time of year, and it can be done safely.
About 2000 hunters descend on the mountain park at this time of year during the roar season, and the iwi was worried the influx could result in accidents and transmission of the virus, Te Urewera Board chair Tāmati Kruger said.
"We know that many keen hunters want to head in to Te Urewera, but we are asking them for patience. Tūhoe communities are trying to safeguard everyone from the risk of transmission of the virus," Kruger said.
"We feel as if transmission in our isolated bush communities would leave us defenceless. We want to do all that we can to reduce risks for everyone in Te Urewera. And if waiting a few more weeks is it - then that is the course of action we want to take."
The protections currently in place for everyone within Te Urewera at alert level 4 would remain in place at level 3, he said.
This meant Te Urewera huts, campgrounds, boat ramps, walks (including the Waikaremoana Great Walk) and freedom camping areas would also remain closed at levels 3 and 4.
Te Urewera Board has carefully reviewed its own statutory responsibilities as the voice of Te Urewera, to the land, to manuhiri, and to tangata whenua.
Te Urewera is perhaps the only significant wilderness or bush area in New Zealand with living communities within it.
"Based on historical hunting numbers in Te Urewera during the roar season, which would happen in a compressed timeframe thanks to the lockdown, an influx of hunters could pose a significant risk in terms of transmission of the virus between communities, the safety of local people and the safety of hunters themselves.
"We have to play our part, just as all New Zealanders must, to eliminate Covid-19, and to minimise the risk and demand on emergency services in what is after all a 2127 [square kilometres] mountain range that is remote from most parts of the country and emergency services."
Te Urewera Visitor Centre also remains closed to the public.
Tūhoe kaimahi will be checking tracks, huts and campsites to ensure these measures for public safety were observed, Kruger said.